Skip to main content

Full text of "Kandinsky"

See other formats




DINSK 





Dedicated to the memory of three great men, 
whose intuitive vision and integrity equalled 
their knowledge and unerring devotion to art. 
Their recent deaths impoverished France 
and all those, to whom the upkeep of 
aesthetic culture is of essential necessity. 

TO THE INSPIRED ROBERT DELAUNAY 
TO THE IDEALISTIC IVANHOE RAMBOSSON 
TO THE NOBLE FELIX FENEON 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Library and Archives 



http://www.archive.org/details/kandinsky1945reba 




PUBLISHED BY THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM FOUNDATION NEW YORK 
EDITED BY HILLA REBAY, CURATOR AND TRUSTEE, UPON THE OCCASION OF 

THE KANDINSKY MEMORIAL EXHIBITION, MARCH 15TH TO MAY 15TH, 1945 

IN THE MUSEUM OF NON-OBJECTIVE PAINTINGS, 24 EAST 54TH STREET, NEW YORK CITY 



COPYRIGHT 1945 BY THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM FOUNDATION NEW YORK 
SET IN FUTURA BY ATLANTIC TYPOGRAPHERS, INC. • NEW YORK CITY 
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 





3L-I.-IAO 




WATERCOLOR, SKETCH BY KANDINSKY FOR COMPOSITION NO. 4 



1911 



IN MARCH 1911 KANDINSKY EXPLAINED ONE 
OF HIS EARLY OBJECTIVE ABSTRACTIONS 
COMPOSITION NO. 4 AS FOLLOWS: 

1. Retrospective Definition. 
Masses (of the weight) 

Colour below in the middle -blue (contributes to the whole a cold sound). 

upper right hand corner — split blue, red and yellow. 
Lines left hand upper corner— black lines of horses (knotted). 

lower right hand corner— stretched lines of the lying. 

2. CONTRASTS 

of the masses to the lines, of the definite to the vague, of knotted lines to colored knots. 
And as the main contrast an angled sharp movement (battle) to the light cold sweet colors. 

3. OVERFLOWINGS 

of the color to the contours. The completed contour of the castle is reduced only through 
the influence of the sky over the contour. 

4. 2 CENTERS 

1. of the knotted lines. 

2. of the modelled angle of the blue which are separated through vertical black lines. 



8 



(spears). The whole composition is intended to be light with many sweet colors, which 
often absorb each other; the yellow is also cold. 

This light — sweet — cold, presents the main contrast in the picture by moving to an 
angle (conflict). It seems that here this contrast (as compared with composition No. 2) 
is still stronger and therefore appears harder, more distinct. 

It possesses as an advantage, a more precise influence, and as a disadvantage a slightly 
overdone precision. 

As a basis are placed the following elements: 

1. The consonants of inactive masses. 

2. a quick movement of the parts directed mainly to the upper right hand corner. 

3. the main movement in an angle is pointed toward the upper left hand corner. 

4. the opposition of both directions (in the direction towards the right we notice the 
flowing of smaller forms, the others flow to the left). 

5. the consonants of the masses with the lines which lie open. 

6. The contrasting of the smudged forms to the contours (also the line in the sense of 
the line (apropos to No. 5) and as a contour where it is supposed to sound as a line. 

7. The overflowing of the colors over the limits of the form. 

8. The preponderance of the sound of the colors over the sound of the form. 

9. Diffusions. 




COMPOSITION NO. 4 



1911 




COMPOSITION NO. 6 



1913 



HOW KANDINSKY EXPLAINED COMPOSITION 
NO. 6, ONE OF HIS LAST OBJECTIVE 
ABSTRACTIONS IN EARLY MAY OF 1913 



This picture I was bearing in mind for one and Va years. 
And often it seemed to me that perhaps I would not 
achieve it. The point of departure was the deluge. This 
point of departure was a mirrored picture which I have 
made rather more for my own pleasure. 

Here different objective forms are given, which are 
sometimes merry (it amused me to compose earnest 
forms with amusing expressions), nudes, arches, ani- 
mals, palms, flashes, rain, etc. 

As the mirrored picture was ready, I found myself wish- 
ing to work this theme over into a composition, and it 
was rather clear to me in which way I would have to 
do it. 

But very soon this feeling disappeared, and I found 
myself lost in objective forms which I painted so as to 
make the comprehension of this picture more clear and 
distinct. Instead of clearness, however, I found indis- 
tinctness. 



In several sketches I dissolved the objective forms and 
in others I tried to achieve the impression in a more 
abstract way. But this did not work either. 

The reason for it was, that myself while being forced 
to render the expression of the deluge, I did not listen 
to the expression of the word "deluge." 

Not the inner sound, but the exterior expression was 
dominating me. Weeks passed and I tried again, but 
still without results. 

I also tried the already tested way of giving up for a 
time the task, so as to be able to take a sudden look 
at the sketches with fresh eyes. Then it was that I dis- 
covered the correct approach but I was still unable to 
separate the kernel from the shell: I remembered the 
serpent which could not get out of its old skin. The skin 
was very much dead, but it stuck to the serpent, which 
in this case was the object. 

In the same way for a year and a half there would 



10 



stick to me the element of the catastrophe of the deluge, 
which is alien to the inner sense of the picture. 

My mirrored picture was at that time on exhibition. 
But it returned and as I saw it again, I was immediately 
again where I was, when I had first completed that 
mirrored picture. But I already had my doubts and 
thought that I would never complete the big picture. 

Nevertheless from time to time I would give a look at 
the mirror picture which hung in my studio. And every 
time I would react the same way, firstly by the colors 
and then by the compositional work and then by the 
form of design in itself which all was without any re- 
lation to the object. 

This mirrored picture appeared so separated from my- 
self, that I was astonished I had painted it. However, 
it made its impression on me, like many other things or 
ideas; which have the power through their vibrations 
to awaken in me purely artistic conceptions and which 
brought me finally to the creation of a picture. 

At last the day came when a quiet inner feeling made 
me entirely sure of myself. I immediately produced 
nearly without any corrections a definite last sketch, 
which nearly practically seemed to satisfy me; and I 
felt sure that under normal circumstances I would paint 
this painting. As soon as I got the canvas I immediately 
proceeded to the drawing. It went so fast that nearly 
everything was satisfactory. 

In two or three days the picture as a whole was there. 
The struggle to master the canvas was over, therefore 
if for some reason I would have to give up to paint, 
the picture would still be there: the main work was done. 
Then came the extremely delicate pleasant and never- 
theless strenuous process of harmonizing the different 
parts of the picture with each other. Formerly I would 
have been much bothered where I found something 
objectively wrong and would have felt obliged to 
improve it. Yet the experience of years had taught 
me, that sometimes the error \n a painting does not lie 
in the space where we look for it. And that one makes a 
right correction of the left hand lower corner only by 
correcting something out of balance in the upper right 
hand corner. If the left hand cup of the scales goes 
down too low, the point is to put more weight on the 
right hand cup and then the left one will soon rise its 
weight all by itself. 

The strenuous search in the picture of such right hand 
cup, the trembling of the left one which occurs through 
the smallest change in design and color in some place, 
which cause vibrations to the whole of a painting. All 
these infinitely alive, immensely sensitive elements in a 
picture, if when correctly painted, evolve a third mo- 
mentum of beauty and suflFering in the process of 
painting. 

Such infinitely small possibilities of weight which should 
be used and which exercise such a strong influence on 
the whole conception of the picture's marvelous exacti- 



tude is the action of the hidden law, which through for- 
tunate circumstances influences the artist and which he 
obediently follows — all this appears as tempting, as 
the first dynamic sketching of the big masses on the 
canvas itself. 

To each of these moments corresponds a certain tension. 
And many a wrong or incompleted picture owes its sad 
fate to the fact that wrong tensions were applied. 

In this picture one sees two centers: 

1. On the left the delicate, pinkish, slightly vague cen- 
ter with feeble, uncertain lines in the middle. 

2. On the right (slightly higher than the left one) the 
rude, red-blue, a little out of key, with sharp, malignant 
strong and very precise lines. 

Between these two centers there is a third one (closely 
to the left one) which only later on is discovered to be 
a center, but on a final count will be considered as 
the main center. 

Here the pink and the white are mixed in a foam 
which gives the impression of neither lying on the 
canvas nor on any ideal plane. Rather it seems to 
hang in the air and appears to be surrounded with 
haze. Such an absence of a plane and an uncertainty 
of distance may be observed for instance in Russian 
steam baths. A human figure standing amid the steam 
seems to be neither close nor far; it is "somewhere." 

This "somewhere" of the main center produces the 
decisive impression of the picture. I worked so much upon 
this problem, until I attained what I was ceaselessly striv- 
ing for from the first. And which I later incorporated into 
the innerly desired form. The smaller form of this pic- 
ture called for something very plain, yet broad 
("largo") with respect to infiuence. For this purpose I 
used long solemn lines, which I had already used in 
Composition 4. 

It was good to see the new way in which the previ- 
ously used measure could be put to work. Those lines 
are connected with those above them, which are in a 
cross direction to the former and are thick and decisive. 
The two systems of lines are in conflict with each other. 

To soften the dramatic vibration of the lines, that is in 
order to retouch their dramatically intruding element 
(to put, so to say, a muzzle on this element), I placed 
on the picture a display of a whole fugue of pink spots. 
They give the great disturbance a certain calm and 
provide an objective outlook to the whole drama. This 
solemn and calm character is underscored also by the 
various blue spots which contribute to an inner warmth. 
The warm influence of this essentially cold color in- 
creases again the dramatic element in an art which 
thus again becomes noble and non-objective. 

The entirely deep brown forms (especially in the upper 
left hand corner) contribute a dull and very far 
sounding note, which reminds one of hopelessness. 



11 



Green and yellow bring life to the soul and provide 
it with the missing activity. I have also made decisive 
use here of the smoothness and the roughness of the 
canvas. This gives the spectator new experiences, even 
if he comes close to the canvas. 

In this way all the elements, even those in contradic- 
tion to each other, are brought into complete inner 
balance, so neither of them wins preponderance. 

The original theme for the creation of the picture 
(originally the deluge) is dissolved into an innerly pure. 



independent, almost non-objective essence. Nothing 
would be further from the truth than to brand-mark this 
picture as the representation of an event. 

A significantly acting objective destruction is in such 
a way also a complete song of praise, a singular 
sound, which resounds like a hymn of new revival, 
which does follow every ruination. 



May, 1913 




12 




13 




6^v 



14 



ANALYSIS BY KANDINSKY ON HIS PAINTING 
CALLED "THE WHITE EDGE," WHICH IS .PARTLY 
ABSTRACT AND ALREADY PARTLY NON-OBJECTIVE 



I have made many sketches for this picture, as well as 
designs. The first sketch was made very soon after my 
return from Moscow in December 1912. It was the re- 
sult, OS is usually the case, of hard experiences in 
Moscow, or to be more exact of impressions made by 
Moscow itself. The first sketch was short and crowded. 
But already in the second one I used "dissolution" of 
colors and form-events in the right hand lower corner. 
In the left hand upper corner I left the motive of the 
"troika"* which I had conceived some time ago, and 
which I had used in several other paintings. This left 
corner had to be particularly simple, by which I mean, 
that the impression thereof had to be gained directly 
from the form. In the corner itself are white, indented 
lines which express a certain feeling, which I am unable 
to put into words. It may be that it evokes a feeling of 
certain obstacles, which the troika is unable to over- 
come. Described in this way the compositions acquire 
a repulsive, wooden expression. For instance the gre6n 
color awakens often (or sometimes) in the soul an echo 
of summer vibrations. Freshness and clearness may, in 
such a case, contribute to the harmony of this im- 
pression. But it might become unpleasant, if this echo 
should become too clear and distinct, so that instead of 
reminding us of the summer season it would make us 
think of summer "pleasures" such, as for instance, how 
nice it would be to take off one's coat in summer without 
catching cold. Thus, as a consequence, we should adopt 
clearness and simplicity in the left hand upper corner 
and a smudged dissolution with small and dull dissolu- 
tions in the right hand upper corner. Likewise, as I often 
do, I have made use of two centers, although they are 
less independent here as for instance in Composition 6, 
where it would be possible to make two pictures out 
of one. 

The center on left: a combination of standing forms 
which is related to the second center; the use of pure, 
very much resounding colors; the red slightly dissolved, 
the blue absorbed inwards (presenting a strong centro- 
filial movement.) Thus the means appear very simple, 
quite uncovered and clear. 

The second center to the right: bent, thick forms (which 
cost me much work.) It has outward and inward pointed 
hooks (rather white) which give to its melancholic bend 
on energetic note of "inner simmering." 



All this is submerged into dull blue tones (compara- 
tively or perhaps even in an exaggerated way) which 
only occasionally succeed in producing a sound and 
which united together may contribute, to give to the 
upper form a somewhat egg-shaped surrounding. It is 
like a little realm by itself, which is not pasted on to an 
alien body, but which rather blooms on it like a flower. 
This somewhat egg-shaped form I have presented in a 
general way, so as to make it clear and yet so as not 
to be too conspicuous or insistant. I have for instance 
shown its limits clearly at the top, and hazily below. 
When following these limits with the eye one may ex- 
perience many inner fluctuations, like those of waves. 
Both centers are separated from each other, yet they 
have a connection with each other, through the medium 
of many more or less distinct forms, which are partly 
plain spots, of green. This massing of the green I 
have often applied quite unconsciously yet, as I see 
it now, with a certain plan. I did not want to add to 
the strong movement of this picture any further disturb- 
ance. Much rather did I have the intention to show its 
unrest by emphasizing the quiet. However, an over- 
dose of green and especially of Paris-blue was 
noticeable there (the frigidity of a dull sound) which, 
later on and not without considerable effort, I tried to 
eliminate from the picture. 

My inner state of mind imposed on me the necessity of 
choosing between the simplicity of the left side and 
the two centers, and to apply a technique which I should 
perhaps call the technique of pressure. I pressed the 
brush against the canvas, which resulted in producing 
small sharp angles and lumps. This seemed to be quite 
correct and expedient — it seems that a certain tech- 
nical disturbance, between the three described spots, 
was necessary. 

In the lower left hand corner then arises a conflict in 
white and black, which is separated from the dramatic 
clearness of the upper left hand corner, by the use of 
Naples-yellow. I call the rolling of the indistinct black 
spots in the white an "inner brooding in an unclear 
form." 

Similar to this is the opposed upper right hand corner, 
which, however, already belongs to the white rim. The 
work upon this white rim proceeded very slowly. All 
sketches were of no use to me; although the separate 



*A team of three horses. I designate by this name a system of three lines running along together with certain deviations, which are 
bent towards the top. I came to this form by thinking of the lines on the backs of the horses in a Russian three-horse team. 



15 



forms finally became clear to me, I nevertheless could 
not make up my mind to paint the picture. I was in 
trouble. Week after week I contemplated the sketches 
only to feel, that I was not ripe for the work. Years of 
experience have taught me later, to use patience in such 
cases, and not to try to break the task over my knee. 

So it happened that only after nearly five months I 
found myself again sitting in front of the second and 
larger sketch and suddenly understood what was 
missing: it was the white edge. I was even scared when 
I understood the fact, but nevertheless went immediately 
to the shop to order the canvas. The doubt about its 
size took at least half an hour (length 160 ? 180 ? 
200 ? ). 



I tackled this white rim with the same capriciousness, 
with which it had imposed itself on my mind. On the left, 
below was the foundation; from here there rises up a 
white wave which then falls abruptly down; on the 
right of the picture the wave flows in a lazy snakelike 
movement. On the top of the right side it forms a small 
lake (in the spot, where the black brooding originates), 
which disappears in the direction of the left hand 
upper corner, so as to show itself for the first time in 
the definite form of white hooks. 

Due to the fact that this white rim proved to be the 
solution of the whole picture, I have called by its 
name the picture itself. 

May 1913 



ON THE WHITE EDGE 



The "White Edge," painted in 1913, belongs to Kandin- 
sky's most important lyrical paintings; and to a period 
which he later on called his "dramatic one," due to the 
extraordinary fateful happenings in his life, during the 
years from 1910 to 1920. In 1937, speaking about the 
lyrical paintings of this period, Kandinsky explained, 
that never again could he paint these paintings, nor 
express himself equally spontaneously and as deeply 
emotional. That therefore these lyrical paintings were 
unique in their intensity and directness of self expression. 
The "White Edge," though partially abstracted from a 
"troika motive" and somewhat inspired by "intellectual 
reminiscence about summer impressions," derives its 
importance from those parts of non-objective inventive- 
ness, which bring to its rhythmic form and color element 
a powerful triumph, beyond all intellectual, unpictorial 
handicap from abstraction. 

The possibility of a complete solution in any creative 
organization of painting, depends on the consequent 
development of the artistic problem; intuitively con- 
ceived, and ordered cosmically with an intelligence, 
freed of any tie from the intellectual unpictorial dictum. 

The purity of a given space on a canvas, or on a paper 
demands from the artist the upholding of this purity. 
And a strict devotion to the imperative lawful consequent 
development, which is in acordance with the first state- 
ment of form and color on the virgin canvas. That the 
beauty of this given space can be ruined by inorganic 
intellectual abstraction of an objective or subjective 
inspiration, or intelligently and reverently enriched with 
creative invention, makes the difFerence between the 
intellectual earthly conceived abstraction and the intelli- 
gent, spiritually conceived non-objective creation. A 



simple fact, which has not yet dawned upon the many, 
who are intellectually handicapped but write on Art. Yet 
this realization has imposed its essential truth on the 
creative artist's consciousness. It involves a severe obli- 
gation for reverent devotion to the law of a sublime and 
prophetic task. 

One of the reasons for the historic importance of the 
"White Edge" is, that during the creation of this paint- 
ing, Kandinsky evolved to the realization of this task 
and its possibility. And so he overcame the objective 
handicap, eliminating it with the powerful rhythm he 
created in the construction of this painting, which is due 
to its magnificent design and the masterful use of white 
and black, as a color element. Also the contrast of the 
rhythmic counterplay in the red motive, circling its own 
melody around a green center motive, and the blue color 
theme which is so soundly organized into its own lawful 
rhythm, that it seems to hold the entire composifion 
together. All this enchantingly embraced by a yellow 
counter motive which, like a melody of infinite joyous- 
ness, seems to satisfy itself with its expressive rhythm, 
while surrounding organically the entire composition. 
Almost like the tone of a clarinet, pursuing its flow of 
delightful rhythmic harmony, which cheers the organiza- 
tion of a symphony, to contrast the soft intensity of the 
contrabass or cello's solemn andante. The law of counter- . 
point in musical sound creation has its counterpart in 
just as many lawful problems of form and color com- 
position in non-objective painting. To which law the lay- 
man need not pay any attention. His reaction should be 
the faculty to enjoy the result of beauty and harmony, 
as anyone can enjoy the heavenly blue of the enchanting 
morning glory, swaying rhythmically in the wind, without 
questioning its creation. 



16 



ON COMPOSITION NO. 8 



Painted in 1923, ten years after the "White Edge," the 
"Composition No. 8" which in 1932 Kandinsky called 
his most important painting, shows clearly his develop- 
ment to greater clarification of space and form precision. 
Also, indicating the use of a light background, which 
since 1919 has made possible to a great extent the 
expression of the rhythmic form ideal of our time. In so 
creating the need for a visionary or rather spiritual 
dimension, which must be felt to be realized, and which 
induces the onlooker to follow this visionary rhythm from 
form to form, and to realize the dimension of a line to 
harmonize with the balance of space surrounding it. 
Also to feel the perfection of the rhythmic in-between, 
which magically binds the entire creation to a unit of 
endless vibrations for aesthetic enjoyment. It can be seen 
from many angles, unlimited approaches and with 
infinite possibilities of reaction. While the quiet influence 
of non-objective paintings develops such reactions finally 
in all those exposed to its growing influence. Due to this 
influence, a non-objective painting is a most essential, 
useful, practical creation for the advance of mankind. 

In "Composition No. 8" the softly rounded lyrical line 
motives are counter-played by the dramatic straight 
lines and triangles, while the circle motives enfold them- 
selves as contrasting centers in the vast unit. Here 
Kandinsky already approaches what later he solved to 
perfection in the paintings of 1935 "Pointed and Round" 
and of 1936 "Rigid and Bent" (reproduced on pages 
34 and 41). It is the excluding of the outside space, 
beyond the frame, still so evident in the "White Edge." 
Yet there the intense centrifugal force seems to rather 
draw the outside into the inside of the painting's space 
and to induce it deflnitely into its rhythmic content. In 
"Composition No. 8" the master achieved already partly 



a powerful feeling of largeness of space by almost 
entirely staying inside the frame. 

To avoid eccentric continuity and yet not create a boring 
decoration or dull pattern, as most bring about, who 
lack the ability to create the spirituality of rhythm, is 
what provides the answer, whether such a painting is 
Art or decoration. Only a concentric creation can bring 
such spiritual rhythm in between its form variations. 

Kandinsky's "Composition No. 8," painted in 1923, 
belongs to the so-called "cold period," about which 
Kandinsky wrote in 1936 to Hilla Rebay: "Most of the 
paintings of this so-called 'cold period' which at first 
were so violently attacked, are now already sold, and 
so I have practically nothing left of it." In 1938 Kandinsky 
stated that to call such a creative painting an "abstrac- 
tion" was wrong, but that unfortunately this erroneous 
term was now introduced. To this Hilla Rebay replied, 
"It can be changed." As the word was the beginning of 
creation, it should be respected for its meaning. How 
can absolute forms become abstracted? Kandinsky also 
said and wrote, that he had used the word "non-objec- 
tive" already in 1910, in his first autobiography, and 
that the denial in the word "non-objective" is needed at 
a fime, when people are trained to detect objects as an 
essential part of Art; they therefore wish to look for title 
and subject, before even seeing a painfing as such. Yet 
the denial in the word "NON" informs the onlooker at 
once not to search for any earthly representation. This 
intellectual reaction is clearly forestalled by the "NON," 
while only those people are attracted whose artistic souls 
search for art itself. In time to come this "NON" will not 
be necessary, and these paintings can be simply called 
creative paintings which they are. 




^' 



From 1914 to 1921 Kandinsky lived in Russia. Most of 
the paintings from this epoch belong to the Russian 
State and are not available at this time. 

His autobiography written in 1910, and which follows, 
appeared in a German edition by Herwarth Walden, 
in 1913. 

In 1918 while Kandinsky was in Moscow, the Depart- 
ment of Pictorial Art of the Peoples Commissariat of 
Education published a revised edition of it which also 
contained an addition by Kandinsky; and which he 
called "Text Artista." 

This Autobiography as well as the Culture Plan of 1920 
(Schematic Plan of Studies and Work of the Institute 
of Art Culture) were both recently translated from the 
Russian and are also published by the Solomon R. 
Guggenheim Foundation, upon the occasion of the 
Kandinsky Memorial Exhibition from March 15th to May 
15th, 1945 in the Museum of Non-objective Paintings. 

Located at 24 East 54th Street, it houses the collection 
of the Foundation temporarily, until Frank Lloyd Wright 
has erected the permanent Gallery on Fifth Avenue 
and 89th Street after plans just finished, and which 
is to be built soon after the war. 



20 J 




\:/y 



21 




Photograph taken by Hilla Rebay of her parents, 
showing the inn in Rothenburg, where Kandinsky 
painted and which he describes in his biography. 



22 



RETROSPECTS BY WASSILY KANDINSKY 



The first colors that made a strong impression on me 
were light, juicy green, white, crimson red, black and 
yellow ochre. These memories go back to the third year 
of my life. I saw these colors on various objects which 
are not as clear in my mind today as the colors 
themselves. 

Like all children, I passionately loved to "ride horse- 
back." For this purpose, our driver cut spiral stripes 
into thin rods, removing both rinds from the first spiral 
cut and only the top rind from the second, so that my 
horse generally consisted of three colors; the brownish 
yellow of the outer rind (which I did not like and which 
I would have liked to replace by another), the juicy 
green of the second layer of the rind (which I par- 
ticularly liked and which, even when acquiring a with- 
ered look, still had something fascinating for me) and 
finally the ivory-colored wood of the stick itself (which 
had a happy smell that made me want to lick it; but 
soon it withered, which from the very start spoiled my 
pleasure in this white). 

It seems to me that shortly before my parents went to 
Italy (where I, as a three-year-old, and my nurse were 
taken along), my grandparents moved into a new 
apartment, I have the impression that this apartment 
was still completely empty, that is neither furniture nor 
people were in it. In a room that was not large, there 
was only a clock on the wall. I stood in front of it, all 
alone, and enjoyed the white of the dial and the 
crimson red of the rose painted on it. 

My nurse, who hailed from Moscow, was very much 
surprised that my parents were making such a long 
trip, just to admire "broken down buildings and old 
stones": "We have enough of these in Moscow." Of 
all these "stones" in Rome I only remember an unsur- 
mountable forest of thick pillars, this terrible forest of 
the St. Peter's Cathedral from which, it appears to me, 
my nurse and I could find no way out for a long time. 

And then Italy is colored into two black impressions. I 
drive with my mother in a black coach over a bridge 
(water below — I believe dirty yellow): I was brought 
into a kindergarten in Florence. And another black — 
steps into black water, on it a terrible, black, long boat 
with a black box in the center: we go on a gondola at 
night. Here too I develop a gift which makes me 
famous "all over Italy," as I cry from the bottom of 
my heart. 

It was a piebald horse (yellow ochre body and light 
yellow mane) in a game of horse race, which I and my 
cunt* liked particularly. Here a strict routine was ob- 



served: once I was allowed to have this horse under 
my jockeys, and once my aunt. My love for such horses 
has not left me to this day. It is a pleasure to me to see 
such a horse in the streets of Munich; it appears every 
summer when the streets are sprinkled. It arouses the 
sun living within me. It is immortal because it has not 
become older in the fifteen years I have known it. It 
was one of my first impressions when I moved to Munich 
before this time — and the strongest. I stopped and 
followed it with my eyes for a long time. And a half 
unconscious, but happy promise, touched my heart. It 
aroused the little lead horse that was living within me 
and connected Munich with the years of my childhood. 
This piebald horse, suddenly made me feel at home in 
Munich. As a child I talked much German (my grand- 
mother, from my mother's side, came from the Baltic). 
The German fairy tales which I had so often heard as 
a child, began to take life. The high, narrow roofs of the 
Promenaden Platz and the Maximilian Platz, which have 
disappeared in the meantime, the old Schwabing, and 
particularly the meadow which I once discovered by 
chance, transformed these fairy tales into reality. The 
blue tramway passed through the streets, like the air 
in a fairy tale, taking on life, making breathing light 
and happy. The yellow letter boxes at the corners 
sang their songs like canary birds. I welcomed the in- 
scription " K u n s t - muehle" and felt that I was in a 
city of arts, which to me was the same as fairytown. 
These impressions were the basis of the mediaeval 
paintings which I made later. Following good advice, I 
visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber. I will never forget 
the constant changing from the express to the local 
and from the local to the trolley with the grass covered 
rails, the thin whistle of the long-necked locomotive, 
the clatter and whining of the tired rails, and with the 
old peasant, with large silver buttons, who insisted on 
talking to me about Paris, and whom I could hardly 
understand myself. It was an unreal trip. I felt as though, 
counteracting all laws of nature, a magic power was 
drawing me into the past, frbm one country to the other. 
I leave the small (unreal) station and passing over a 
meadow, I enter the gate. Gates, ditches, narrow houses 
which hold their heads together down the entire lane, 
and look each other deep into the eye, the giant door 
of the inn, leading direct into the dark, mighty dining 
room, from the center of which heavy, wide dark, 
oak stairs lead to the rooms, and the sea of bright 
red roofs which I see through the narrow window. 
It was rainy all the time. High, round rain drops sat on 
my palette, teasingly reached out their hands to each 



* Elisabeth Tichejeff, who had a great, unforgettable influence on my life and my entire development. She was my mother's eldest sister 
and played a great part in my education. However, also many other people, with whom she came in contact do not forget her 
enlightened spiritual being. 



23 



other from afar, shivered and shook, suddenly and un- 
expectedly they united, forming thin, clever cords, run- 
ning quickly and gaily among the colors, slipping into 
my sleeves here and there. I do not know where these 
studies have gone. They have disappeared. Just one 
picture remained of this trip. That is "the old village" 
which, however, I only painted after my return to 
Munich from memory. It is sunny and I made the roofs 
as bright a red as I could at the time. 

In this painting too I really was chasing after a certain 
hour which always remained and will remain the nicest 
hour of the Moscow days. The sun is already low and 
has reached its greatest power, for which it was search- 
ing all day long, to which it aspired the entire day. 
This picture does not last long: but a few more minutes 
and the light of the sun becomes reddish from effort, 
redder and redder, first cold and then warmer and 
warmer. The sun melts all of Moscow into one spot 
which, like a mad tuba vibrates the spirit — the entire 
soul. No, this red unity is not the nicest hour! That is 
only the last note of the symphony which brings every 
color to highest life, which lets all of Moscow ring like 
the fff of a giant orchestra and forces it to join in. 
Pink, lavender, yellow, white, blue, pistachio green, crim- 
son red houses, churches — each a separate song — 
the raving green grass, the deeper murmuring trees, 
or the snow, singing with a thousand voices, or the 
allegretto of the branches, stripped of their leaves, 
the red, stiff, silent ring of the Kremlin wall and above 
that, towering, everything like a note of triumph, like 
an all-forgetting Hallelujah the white long, delicately 
earnest line of the Ivan Weliky Bell Tower. And on its 
high, stretched neck, striving upwards in constant search 
of the heavens, is the golden head of the cupola, shin- 
ing between the golden and colored stars of the other 
Moscow cupolas. 

To paint this hour, I thought, would be the most impossi- 
ble and highest joy of an artist. 

These Impressions repeated themselves every sunny 
day. They were a pleasure which touched me to the 
bottom of my soul, rising to ecstasy. And at the same 
time, they were a torture, because I felt that art as a 
whole, and particularly my powers as compared to 
nature, were far too weak elements. Many years had 
to pass before I came to the simple solution, through 
feeling and thinking, that the aims (thus also the means) 
of nature and art are essentially, organically, by the 
laws of science, different from each other — and that 
they are equally large and equally strong. This solu- 



tion which today guides my work, which is so plain and 
simply natural, destroys the unnecessary torture of the 
unnecessary task which deep inside of me I had set for 
myself, though it could not be fulfilled. It did away with 
this torture, and the pleasure in nature and art thus 
rose to untroubled heights. Since that time I have been 
able to enjoy these two world elements to their full. 
A joy, paired with the stirring feeling of thankfulness. 

This solution released me and opened new worlds to me. 
Everything "dead" vibrated. Not only the stars, moon, 
woods and trees serenaded by the poets, but also a 
stump lying in an ash tray, a patient white trouser but- 
ton looking up from a puddle in the street, a willing 
piece of bark trailed through the grass by an ant's 
strong teeth to a certain place and for a certain pur- 
pose, a calendar sheet, towards which the well-known 
hand is extended, to forcefully tear it from the warm 
companionship of the other sheets remaining on the 
pad — everything shows me its face, its inner being, 
the secret soul, which remains silent more often than it 
speaks. Thus every quiet and every moving point 
or line became just as alive and opened up its soul 
to me. That was sufFicient for me to "grasp" with all 
my being and all my senses the possibility and the ex- 
istence of that art which today in contrast to "objec- 
tivity" is called "non-objectivity." 

But at the time when I was attending college and could 
use only my free time for painting, I searched, in spite 
of an apparent impossibility, for a "color chorus" (as 
I called it) which I could retain on canvas and which 
had come to me directly from nature, stirringly forcing 
itself onto my very soul. I made desperate efforts to 
express the full power of this resounding — and in vain. 

At the same time my soul was constantly kept vibrating 
by other, purely human emotions, so that I knew no 
quiet hour. It was the time of the creation of an all 
student organization which was to embrace the stu- 
dents not only of one university, but of all Russian 
universities, and in the end also the Western European 
universities. The struggle of the students against the sly 
and unveiled University Law of 1885 continued con- 
stantly. "Unrests," violations of the old liberal Moscow 
traditions, the destruction by the ofFicials of organiza- 
tions already in existence, our new organizations, the 
subterranean thunder of the political movements, the 
development of the initiative* of the students, created 
constant new occurrences and thus made the soul sensi- 
tive, receptive and particularly susceptive to vibrations. 



*This own initiative is one of the happy, though much too little cultivated sides of a life pressed into rigid form. Every individual 
(cooperative or personal) step brings results, because it shakes the rigidness of the state of life — irrespective of whether it shows 
"practical" results or not. It forms the atmosphere of criticism of common occurrences which, through dull habit continue to harden the 
soul and make it immovable. This is the reason for the dullness of the masses, about which freer spirits, always have reason to complain 
bitterly. It was the intention to create the cooperative organizations in such a way, that their statutes were as loose as possible, so that 
they would be more inclined to adjust themselves to anything new and not keep to precedence as much as was formerly the case. 
Every organization is to be considered merely as a stepping stone to freedom, as a band which is still needed, but which is to be 
as loose as possible and does not hinder the great strides to further development. 



24 



Luckily, politics did not completely embrace me. The 
necessary power of absorption into the fine material, 
called the "abstract," was practiced by me through 
various forms of study. Besides the special field chosen 
by me (economics which I studied under the guidance of 
Prof. A. J. Tschuproff, the greatly gifted scientist, and 
one of the most singular people that I met in my life) 
other sciences powerfully attracted me, partly simulta- 
neously, partly individually; Roman law (which en- 
chanted me through its fine, conscious, highly refined 
"construction," but which finally could not satisfy me, 
the Slav, due to its cold, much too reasonable, unbend- 
ing logic), criminal law (which particularly interested 
me, and perhaps too much so, due to the then new 
theory of Lombroso), the history of Russian law and the 
law of the peasant (which in contrast to Roman law 
won my great admiration and love as a release and 
happy solution of the fundamental law*), the know- 
ledge of ethnology, touching upon this study (which in 
the beginning I thought would bring me to the soul 
of the people). All these helped me to think in an 
abstract manner. 

All these sciences I loved, and to this day thankfully 
remember the hours of enthusiasm, and perhaps inspi- 
ration, which they gave me. However, these hours 
faded upon my first contact with art, which alone had 
the power of relieving me of the feeling of time and 
space. The scientific work had never given me such 
experiences, inner tension, creative moments. 

Although, I found my powers too weak to feel justified 
to dispense with my other duties and, as it appeared 
to me at the time, to lead the unlimitedly happy life 
of an artist. Besides, at that time, Russian life was par- 
ticularly morose, my scientific works were appreciated, 
and I decided to become a scientist. In economics, (the 
subject chosen by me) I liked, besides the returns, only 
the pure abstract form of thinking. Banking, the practi- 
cal side of money matters were to me utterly repulsive. 
However, there was nothing left to me but to also take 
this part into the bargain. 

At the same time I experienced two things which placed 
a stamp on my entire life and which at that time stirred 
me to the bottom of my soul. They were the French 
Impressionistic exhibition in Moscow — particularly the 
"hay stack" by Claude Monet — and a Wagner pres- 
entation at the Hof Theater — Lohengrin. 



Before that I knew realistic art only, really exclusively 
Russian, often stood for a long time in front of Franz 
Liszt's hand on his portrait by Repin, and the like. And 
suddenly, for the first time, I saw a painting. The 
catalogue explained to me that it was a hay stack. 1 
could not recognize it. I felt embarrassed at this lack 
of recognition. I also felt that the painter had no right 
to paint so indistinctly. I had a dull feeling that the 
object was missing in this painting. And I noticed with 
surprise and consternation that the picture does not 
only draw you, but indelibly impresses itself upon your 
brain and unexpectedly, to its minutest detail, con- 
stantly floats before your mind's eye. All this was un- 
clear to me, and I could not draw the simple conse- 
quences of this experience. The thing, however, that 
was completely clear — was the unexpected power of 
the palette, until now unknown to me, which surpassed 
all my dreams. Painting acquired a fairytale-like power 
and beauty. Unconsciously, however, the object as the 
unavoidable element of a painting, was discredited. 
All in all I had the impression that a small part of my 
fairy-tale Moscow already existed on canvas.** 

Lohengrin, however, appeared to me a full realization 
of this Moscow. The violins, the deep notes of the con- 
trabass, and particularly the wind instruments, to me 
embodied the full power of the hour of dusk. In spirit 
I saw all my colors — they stood in front of my mind's 
eye. Wild, almost mad lines, appeared before me. I 
did not dare use the expression that Wagner had 
musically drawn "my hour." It became quite clear to 
me, however, that art in general is much more powerful 
than appeared to me and that on the other hand, 
painting could develop the same powers that music 
possessed. And the impossibility of myself discovering 
these powers or at least finding them, embittered my 
renunciation even more. 

However, I was never, never strong enough to carry out 
my duties in the face of everything, and I succumb to 
the temptation that was only too great for me. 

A scientific event, cleared one of the most important 
impediments on this road. That was the further division 
of the atom. The destruction of the atom to my soul was 
equal to the destruction of the world. Suddenly the 
heaviest walls broke down. Everything became uncer- 
tain, tottering and soft. I would not have been surprised, 
if a stone had dissolved in the air in front of me and 



* After the "emancipation" of the peasants in Russia, the government gave them an economic self-administration which, unexpected to 
most, awal<ened the political instinct of the peasant and made him politically mature; also their own court where, up to certain limits, 
judges chosen by the peasants settled disputes and were allowed to punish criminal acts. And here the people found the human 
principle, to punish small offenses severely, and severe ofFenses lightly, or not at all. The peasant's expression for this is: "According 
to the man." That is there was no rigid law made (for example, as in the Roman law — particularly jus strictum I) but a very flexible and 
liberal form, which was not decided by appearance but solely by the spirit. 

** The "Light and Air Problem" of the impressionists interested me very little. I always found that Intellectual conversations over this 
problem, have very little to do with painting. The theory of the Neo Impressionist, which in the end talked about the effect of color and 
left air alone, appeared much more important to me. In spite of that I first felt dully, and later consciously, that every theory which is 
based on exterior means, represents only an individual case, at the side of which many other cases can exist by the same right; still 
later I realized that the exterior grows from the inside, or is born dead. 



25 



became invisible. Science seemed to me to have been 
destroyed; its most important basis was but an illusion, 
on error of the scientists, who did not build their celes- 
tial structures in enlightened light, with a steady hand, 
stone by stone, but were rather feeling for truth, un- 
guided in the dark, and blindly misinterpreted one 
item as another. 

As a child already I knew the tormenting, happy hours 
of inner tension, promising to take on an incarnate form. 
These hours of inner trembling, unclear longing, calling 
for something we cannot understand, exercising pres- 
sure on the heart during the day, filling the soul with 
unrest, and during the night causing us to live through 
fantastic dreams, full of horrors and joys. Like many 
children and adolescents, I tried to write poems, which 
I tore up sooner or later. I can remember that drawing 
killed this condition, that is, it allowed me to live outside 
of time and space, so that also I did not feel myself 
anymore. My father* at an early age discovered my 
love for drawing and allowed me to take drawing 
lessons, when I was still in high school. 
I remember, how I loved the material itself, how the 
colors and crayons were particularly attractive, beau- 
tiful and alive to me. I derived lessons from the mistakes 
I made, almost all of which still affect me with their 
original power. As a very small child I used water color 
for a piebald horse; everything was finished, except 
the hoofs. My cunt, who helped me paint had to leave, 
and suggested, that I wait with the hoofs until she re- 
turned. I remained alone in front of the unfinished pic- 
ture and tormented myself with the impossibility of 
putting the last bits of color on the paper. This last 
piece of work seemed so simple to me. I thought, that 
if 1 would make the hoofs real black, they would surely 
be absolutely true to nature. I put as much black on the 
brush as I could. One moment — and I saw four black, 
disgusting, ugly spots, utterly foreign to the paper, on 
the horse's feet. I felt desperate and horribly punished ! 
Later I well understood the Impressionists' fear of black 
and still later it cost me actual spiritual fear to put pure 
black on a canvas. Such a child's misfortune casts a 
long, long shadow on many years of its later life. 
Further great impressions which I gathered during my 
years at college and which again affected me for many 



years, were the Rembrandts in St. Petersburg's Hermitage 
and the trip to the Government District of Wologda, 
where I was sent as ethnologist and jurist by the Im- 
perial Institute for natural history, anthropology and 
ethnography. I had a double duty: To study the peas- 
ants' criminal law among the Russian people (to find 
out the principles of primitive law) and to collect from 
the fisher and hunter tribes of the gradually disappear- 
ing Syrians, the remnants of their heathen religion. 
Rembrandt deeply moved me. The great division of 
Light and Dark, the blending of the secondary tones 
into the larger parts, the amalgamation and consolida- 
tion of these tones into these parts, which give a great 
double effect at any distance, immediately remind- 
ed me of Wagner's trumpets, opening to me en- 
tirely new possibilities, super-human effect of the color 
itself and particularly the intensifying of the power by 
means of constellation, that is contrasts. I saw that every 
large space in itself contained nothing mystic, that each 
of these surfaces immediately betrayed its derivation 
from the palette, but that this space actually achieved 
a mystic power through the other space opposing it, so 
that at first impression its derivation from the palette 
appeared doubtful. However, it was not within my na- 
ture to immediately apply a means observed. Uncon- 
sciously I approached the strange pictures as I now 
approach "nature"; I greeted them with respect and 
deep joy, but felt that this was a power still strange 
to me. However, on the other hand I felt rather uncon- 
sciously that this great division of Rembrandt's gave 
his pictures a quality which to that date I had never 
seen. I felt that his pidures "lasted long" and explained 
this to myself as being due to the fact that first I had 
to constantly explore one part, and then the other. 
Later I understood that this pariition or division magic- 
ally produces an element which originally appeared 
strange and inaccessible to painting — time**. 
The paintings which I painted in Munich ten to twelve 
years ago, were to receive this quality. I only made 
three or four such paintings, during the course of which 
I wanted to put an "endless" number of at first hidden 
color tones into every part. They first had to appear 
completely hidden***, particularly in the dark, and only 
as time went on, show themselves to the carefully watch- 



* With unusual patience my father, during my entire life, allowed me to follow my dreams and whims. When I was ten years old he tried 
to have me assist him in making a choice of schools for me, between Real Gymnasium and the Latin Gymnasium; by describing the 
differences between the two schools, he helped me to make my choice as Independently as possible. For many years he liberally 
assisted me financially. When my life changed, he spoke to me as an older friend and never exercised the least bit of force upon me 
in important matters. His principles of education were full confidence and friendly relations with me. He knows how thankful I am to him. 
These lines should be a guide to parents who often try to forcefully push their children (particularly those gifted artistically) from their 
proper walk of life and thereby make them unhappy. 
**A simple case of the application of time. 

*** During this time I acquired the habit of noting down individual thoughts. Thus was born "On the Spiritual in Art, "unconscious to me. 
The notes piled up during a period of ten years at least. One of my first notes on the beauty of color in a painting, is the following: 
"The splendor of color in a painting must strongly draw the observer towards it, and at the same time it must hide the deep rooted 
essence." I meant the essence of painting, but not as yet in pure form (as I see it now), but the feeling, or the feelings of the artist, 
which he expresses in painting. At that time I still labored under the delusion that the observer faces the painting with an open soul and 
tries to hear a language known to him. There are such observers (that is no delusion), only they are just as rare as gold dust in the 
sand. There are even some observers who, although they have no personal relation to the language of the painting, will face it and allow 
it to take ahold of them. I have met such people during my life. 



26 



ing observer, first unclear and testingly, growing more 
and more, with increasing "unearthly" power. 

To my great surprise 1 found that I was working along 
Rembrandt's principle. That was an hour of bitter dis- 
appointment and gnawing doubt as to my own powers, 
the doubt of a possibility of finding my own means of 
expression. Soon it also appeared "too cheap" to me 
to incarnate the element I loved most at that time, in 
such a manner — the hiding, the time and the weird 
unearthly. 

At that time I worked particularly hard, often until late 
at night, when I was interrupted in my work by complete 
exhaustion and had to go to bed quickly. Days during 
which I had not worked (seldom as they were !), I con- 
sidered lost and tormented myself because of them. 
When the weather was even fairly good, I painted one 
or two hours every day, particularly in the old Schwab- 
ing which at that time gradually developed into a part 
of Munich. During the time of my disappointment in the 
studio work and when I was painting from memory, I 
particularly painted a lot of landscapes which, how- 
ever, did not give me much satisfaction, so that later on 
I only made paintings of a very few of them. I did not 
consider the feeling of travelling with a paint box, with 
the sensation of a hunter in my heart, as responsible, 
as the painting of pictures in which at that time I already 
semi-consciously, semi-unconsciously searched for the 
composition. The word composition moved me 
spiritually, and 1 made it my later aim in life to paint 
a "composition". The word itself affected me 
like a prayer. It filled me with awe. When painting 
sketches, I let myself go. I thought little of houses and 
trees, with my spatula I cut colored stripes and spots 
on the canvas and let them sing as loud as I could. In 
me the hour before dusk in Moscow resounded, in my 
eyes was the strong, colorful scale of the Munich light 
atmosphere, thundering in its shadows. Later, parti- 
cularly at home, always deep disappointment. My 
colors appeared too weak to me, too flat; the entire 
study — a resultless effort to catch the power of nature. 
How queer it was for me to hear that I was exaggerat- 
ing the colors of nature, that this exaggeration makes 
my paintings incomprehensible and that my only sal- 
vation would be to learn to "break colors." The Munich 
critics (who partly, particularly at first, were very 
favorable towards me*), tried to explain the "splendor 
of my colors" as due to Byzantic influence. 

The Russian critics (who almost without exception at- 
tacked me with unparliamentary expressions) found that 
I was deteriorating under the influence of Munich Art. 
At that time I saw for the first time how wrong, unin- 
formed and unrestrained most critics go to work. That 



explains the cold-bloodedness with which intelligent 
artists accept the worst articles about themselves. 

The inclination to "hide," to be hidden, saved me from 
the detrimental side of folk art which I saw for the first 
time in my travels in the Government District of Wologda, 
on its true soil and in its original form. First I took the 
train with a feeling that I was travelling to another 
planet, then I travelled by boat for a few days along 
the quiet and self-absorbed River Suchona;then in a 
primitive coach through endless forests, between col- 
ored hills, via swamps and sand deserts. I travelled 
all alone, which was favorable to absorbing myself in 
the surroundings and myself. During the day there was 
often a scorching heat, and during the night a freezing 
cold. I often think with thankfulness of my drivers 
who constantly wrapped me warmer into my travelling 
rug, which slid down repeatedly, due to the shaking 
and jumping of the coach, which had no springs. I came 
to villages where the entire population was suddenly 
clad in grey, from top to bottom, and who had yel- 
lowish-greenish hair and faces, or whose costumes 
showed a multiple of colors, making them appear like 
colored, living pictures running around on two legs. 
I shall never forget the large houses, covered with 
wood cuts. In these wonder houses I experienced some- 
thing that has not repeated itself since. It taught me to 
move into the picture, to live in the picture. I still 
remember how I stepped into the room the first time 
and instantly stopped, overcome by the unexpected 
picture. The table, the benches, the large oven, so im- 
portant in a Russian peasant house, the closets and 
every article were painted with colored, large orna- 
ments. Folk art on all the walls; a hero, representing a 
symbol, a battle, a painted folk song. The "red" corner 
("red" is ancient Russian and means the same as "beau- 
tiful") completely and closely covered with painted and 
printed pictures of saints; in front of this, a small red 
hanging lamp, which burned and flourished like a 
knowing, discreetly low talking, modest, for and in itself 
living proud star. When flnally I entered the room, I felt 
myself surrounded on all sides by the painting, into 
which I had thus penetrated. The same feeling was 
dormant in me up to that time, unconsciously, when I 
was in the churches in Moscow, and particularly in the 
main dome of the Kreml. During my next visit to these 
churches, after my return from this trip, the same feeling 
within me became fully clear and alive. Later I often 
had the same experience in the Bavarian and Tyrolean 
Chapels. Of course, every time the impression was 
colored entirely different, because completely differ- 
ent parts formed this impression: Church ! Russian 
Church! Chapel! Catholic Chapel! 



* Even today my critics can see talent in my older paintings, which is a proof of their weakness. In later ones, and the latest, they find 
confusion, a dead end road, a decline and often deceit which is a good proof of the constantly increasing power of these paintings. Of 
course, here I do not speak of the Munich critics alone: for them — with few exceptions — my books are malicious bungling. It would 
be too bad, if this judgment were different. 



27 



1 did much sketching of these tables and various orna- 
ments. They were never paltry and were painted so 
strongly that the object dissolved within them. This 
impression, too, became clear to me only much later. 

Probably for no other reason than through these im- 
pressions, my further wishes took shape within me, 
objectives of my own power. I have for many years 
looked for the means of letting the observer "walk" 
into the painting, to force him to the self-erasing dis- 
solution with and within the picture. 

Sometimes I even succeeded: I saw it in the observer. 
From the unconsciously intended effect of painting on 
the painted object, which can dissolve itself through 
such painting, I further developed my ability of 
overlooking the object also within the painting. 
Much later, when I was already in Munich, I was en- 
chanted by an unexpected view in my studio. 

It was the hour of approaching dusk. I returned home 
with my paint box after making a study, still dreaming 
and wrapped into the work completed, when suddenly 
I saw an indescribably beautiful picture, imbibed by an 
inner glow. First I hesitated, then I quickly approached 
this mysterious picture, on which I saw nothing but 
shapes and colors, and the contents of which I could 
not understand. I immediately found the key to the 
puzzle: it was a picture painted by me, leaning against 
the wall, standing on its side. The next day, when there 
was daylight, i tried to get yesterday's impression of 
the painting. However, I only succeeded half-ways: on 
its side too, I constantly recognized the objects and 
the fine finish of dusk was lacking. I now knew fully 
well, that the object harms my paintings. 

A frightening abyss, a responsible load of all kinds of 
questions confronted me. And the most important: what 
should replace the missing object? The danger of orna- 
mentation stood clearly before me, the dead make- 
believe existence of schematical forms could only 
repulse me. 

Only after many years of patient working, strenuous 
thinking, numerous careful attempts, constantly devel- 
oping ability to purely and non-objectively feel artistic 
forms, to concentrate deeper and deeper into this end- 
less depth, I arrived at the artistic forms, with which 
I am now working, at which I am now working and 
which, I hope, will develop much further. 

It took very long before the question "What should 
replace the object?" received a proper reply from 
within me. Often I look back into my past and am 
desolate to think how much time I have lost in answering 
this question. I have only one consolation: I could never 
get myself to use a form which was created within me 
through the application of logic — not purely feeling. 
I could not think up forms and I am repulsed when I see 
such forms. All forms that I ever used came "of their 
own accord," they appeared in finished form before 
my eyes, and it was only up to me to copy them, or 



they already shaped themselves, while I was working, 
often surprising me. As the years went by, I have 
learned to somewhat control this ability of shaping. 
I have trained myself not to just let myself go, but to 
check and guide the force workinig within me. As the 
years went by I learned to understand that working 
with a quickly beating heart, with pressure on the chest 
(and thus later aching ribs) and tension of the entire 
body, cannot suffice. It can, however, only exhaust the 
artist, not his task. The horse carries the rider with 
strength and speed. But the rider leads the horse. 
Talent brings the artist to great heights with power 
and speed. 

The artist, however, guides his talent. That is the ele- 
ment of the "conscious," the "calculating" in his work, 
or what else you wish to call it. The artist must know 
his talent through and through and, like a smart busi- 
nessman, not let the smallest part rest unused and 
forgotten. He must rather utilize, develop every single 
piece up to the maximum possibility existing for him. 
This training, development of talent, requires great 
ability to concentrate, which on the other hand tends 
to diminish other abilities. I observed this clearly on 
myself. I never had a so-called good memory: I was 
particularly always unable to memorize numbers, names 
and even poems. The tables of multiplication always 
offered me unsurmountable difficulties, which I have not 
overcome to this date and which got my teachers des- 
perate. From the very start I had to utilize the optical 
memory. Then it went better. In the state examination 
in statistics I quoted an entire page of figures only be- 
cause in the excitement I saw this page in front of me. 
Thus, already as a boy, I was able to, at home, paint 
by heart paintings, which had particularly fascinated 
me in exhibits, as far as my technical abilities per- 
mitted. Later I often painted a landscape better "by 
heart" than from nature. Thus I painted "The Old 
Village" and later made many colored Dutch and 
Arabian drawings. Thus, in a long street I could name 
all stores, without making a mistake, because I saw 
them in front of me. Fully unconsciously I constantly 
saturated myself with impressions and at times so in- 
tensively and so incessantly, that I felt how my chest 
was cramped and breathing became heavy. I became 
so overtired, overstuffed, that I often thought with envy 
of clerks, who could rest completely after their work. 
I longed for dull quiet, for eyes, which Boecklin called 
"porter's eyes." However, I had to see constantly. 
A few years ago I suddenly noticed that this ability 
had decreased. First I was very much frightened, but 
later I understood that the powers which enabled con- 
stant observation had been guided along other roads, 
due to my improved ability to concentrate, and that 
they fulfilled other purposes, much more important to 
me now. My ability to absorb myself with the inner life 
of art (and thus also my soul) increased so intently, that 
I often passed outside objects without noticing them, 
something that could not have happened before. 



28 



As far as I understand, I did not mechanically force 
myself to this ability — it always lived organically 
within me, but in embryonic form. 

As a thirteen or fourteen year old boy I bought a paint 
box with oil colors with money I had slowly saved up. 
The feeling I had at that time — or better: the ex- 
perience of the color coming out of the tube, is with 
me to this day. One pressure of the fingers and cheer- 
ing, solemn, meditating, dreaming, wrapped up in 
themselves, with deep seriousness, with bubbling roguish- 
ness, with a sigh of relief, with the deep sound of sor- 
row, with obstinate — power and resistance, with re- 
silient softness and devotion, with tenacious self-control, 
with pathetic unstabieness of balance, one after the 
other of these unique beings that we call colors, ap- 
peared — each alive within itself, independent, equipped 
with all kinds of qualities for further independent life. 
And willing at any moment, to submit to new combina- 
tions, to mix among themselves and create endless rows 
of new worlds. Some lied there as already exhausted, 
weakened, hardened, dead forces, living reminders of 
past possibilities, not decreed by fate. As in strife, as 
in battle fresh forces appear from the tube, replacing 
the old ones. In the center of the palette there is a 
unique world of remnants of colors already used, wan- 
dering far from this source to build the necessary 
creations on canvas. Here is a world which arose from 
the will, to create the pictures already painted and by 
coincidence, the obscure game with forces unknown to 
the artist. And I owe much to these coincidences: they 
have taught me more than any teacher or master. I 
studied them often with love and admiration. The 
palette, (consisting of the elements mentioned and which 
in itself is a "creation," often more beautiful than any 
masterpiece), be praised for the pleasures which it 
grants. Often it appeared to me that the brush which 
with unbending will power tore pieces from this living 
color creation, brought forth musical notes as it tore 
away the pieces. Sometimes I heard a hissing of the 
mixing colors. It was like an adventure that you could 
hear, in the secret kitchen of the mysterious alchemist. 

Later I heard that a very famous artist had said (I do 
not remember who it was) "In painting one look at the 
canvas, half a look at the palette and ten at the 
model." It sounded very nice, but I soon found that in 
my case it would have to be the other way around: 
Ten looks at the canvas, one at the palette, half a look 
at nature. Thus I learned to fight with the canvas, to 
learn to know it as a creature resisting my wish (dream) 
and to forcefully submit it to my wish. First it stands 
there like a pure, chaste virgin with clear eye and with 
heavenly joy — this pure canvas which itself is as beau- 



tiful as a painting. And then comes the wishful brush 
conquering it here and there and finally with all its 
energy, like a European colonist penetrating the wild 
virgin nature which no one to date has touched, using 
the axe spade, hammer and saw to shape her accord- 
ing to his wishes. I gradually learned not to see the 
I obstinate, white tone of the canvas, to notice it only as 
a matter of seconds (to check myself), instead of see- 
ing in it the tones that are to replace it — thus one 
thing slowly followed another. 

Painting is a thundering collision of different worlds in- 
tended to create the new world v/ithin and out of their 
strifes. This new world is the painting. Technically every 
masterpiece is created as the cosmos was — through 
catastrophies which in the end create a symphony, a 
symphony of spheres from the chaotic noise of the 
instruments. The creation of masterpieces is the cre- 
ation of worlds. 

Thus these feelings of colors on the palette (and also 
inside the tubes, which resemble humans rich in soul but 
modest looking, who suddenly in case of need uncover 
and utilize their powers so far hidden) became spiritual 
experiences. These experiences became the bases of 
the ideas which already began to consciously collect 
themselves within the past ten to twelve years and 
which lead to the book "On the Spiritual in Art." This 
book wrote itself more than I wrote it. I wrote down 
certain experiences which, as I found later, had a cer- 
tain organic connection. I felt increasingly and con- 
stantly clearer that it is not the "formal" that is important 
to art, but the inner desire (content) which imperatively 
decides the formal. A step in this direction — which, 
however, took a disgracefully long time, was the prob- 
lem of solving the question of art on the basis of inner 
necessity, which was capable of overthrowing all known 
rules and barriers at any time. 

Thus to me the realm of art constantly departed more 
and more from the realm of nature, until I could handle 
both, as two completely difFerent realms. This I accom- 
plished fully only this year. 

Here I might touch on a recollection which at the time 
of its occurrence was a source of pain to me. When I 
came to Munich from Moscow, with the feeling of a 
resurrection, the forced labor behind me, the enjoyable 
labor before me, I soon encountered a limitation to my 
freedom which, at least for a time, though in a new 
form, made me a slave — working from a model. 

I saw the then very famous school of Anton Azbe* 
closely crowded. Two or three models "sat for heads" 
or "stood as nudes." Pupils of both sexes and various 
nationalities, crowded around these ill smelling, indif- 



* Anton Azbe was a gifted artist and a rare and kind person. Many of his numerous students studied with him free of charge. His 
constant reply to the excuse that someone could not pay, was "Just work dilligently !" He apparently had a very unhappy life. You 
could hear him laugh, but never see it; the corners of his mouth were hardly raised, his eyes always remained sad. I do not know 
whether anyone knew the secret of his solitary life. And his death was just as solitary as his life; he died all alone in his studio. 
In spite of his very great income he left only a few thousand Marks. Only after his death it became known ,how liberal he had been. 



29 



ferent, expressionless, generally unprincipled, beings, 
malting 50 to 70 pfennigs per hour; carefully, with a 
quiet, hissing noise, they covered the paper or canvas 
and tried to anatomically, constructively and characteris- 
tically copy these beings, that did not concern them in 
the least. By cutting over the lines, they tried to bring 
out the connection of muscles, by utilization of special 
technique of space and line, they tried to model the 
nostril, the lips, to build the entire head along the 
"principle of the ball" and, as appeared to me, they 
did not think of art for a moment. The principle of lines 
in a nude sometimes interested me very much. Some- 
times, hov/ever, it was repulsive to me. In some positions 
of certain bodies I felt a repulsive effect of lines and 
energetically had to force myself to reproduce them. 
I was almost always fighting myself. Only outside, on 
the street, I could breathe freely again. Often I suc- 
cumbed to the temptation, of staying away from school 
and with my paint box catch the Schwabing, the English 
Garden or the Isar parks, according to my own con- 
ception. Or I stayed at home and tried to paint a pic- 
ture by heart, from studies or imagination. These paint- 
ings did not have too much to do with the laws of 
nature. Colleagues therefore often thought me lazy or 
not too gifted, something that sometimes hurt me deeply 
because I clearly felt within me the love for my work, 
the diligence and the gift. Finally I isolated myself in 
these surroundings, felt like a stranger and with all the 
more intensity absorbed myself in my wishes. 

However, I considered it my duty to attend the course 
in anatomy, something that I did conscientiously — even 
twice. The second time I heard the temperamental and 
vivacious course by Prof. Dr. Moillet. I drew the prepa- 
rations, wrote down the lectures, smelled the air of the 
corpses. However, I unconsciously felt annoyed when I 
heard of the direct connection between anatomy and 
art. It even insulted me — just as I once felt insulted at 
a correction, that the trunk of a tree "must always be 
shown as connected to the ground." There was no one 
there who might have helped me over this feeling, the 
entanglement in this darkness. It is true, that I never 
approached anyone with my doubts. I find to this day 
that such doubts must be solved alone within the soul; 
otherwise one would desecrate one's own strong solution. 
However, I soon found, that every head, even though 
it may appear very "ugly" at the start, is a complete 
beauty. The natural law of construction, which is mani- 
fested so completely and indisputably in every head, 
gave the head this sign of beauty. I often stood in front 
of an "ugly" model and said to myself: "How smart." 
And it is endless wisdom that is portrayed in every 
detail; every nostril, for example, arouses in me the 
same feeling of admiration as the flight of a wild duck, 
the connection of the leaf and the tree, the swimming 
of the frog — the beak of the pelican, etc., etc. This 
feeling of admiration for beauty, for wisdom I also 
received immediately in Prof. Moillet's lectures. 



I had a dull feeling that I was sensing secrets of a realm 
of its own. However, I could not connect this realm with 
the realm of art. I visited the old Pinakothek and no- 
ticed that not a single one of the great masters had 
achieved the exhaustive beauty and wisdom of the 
natural model: nature itself remained untouched. It 
appeared to me at times that it was laughing at these 
efforts. Much more often, however, it appeared "divine" 
to me in an abstract sense: it wrought its creation, it 
went /7s way to its aims which disappear in the mist, it 
lived within its realm, and I was strangely outside of it. 
What is its relation to art? 

When some of my colleagues saw the work I had done 
at home, they termed me a "colorist." Some maliciously 
called me the "landscape painter." Both hurt me, al- 
though I realized the justification of these terms. All the 
more so! I actually sensed that I felt much more at 
home in the realm of colors than in that of drawing. 
I did not know how to help myself in the face of this 
threatening evil. 

At that time Franz Stuck was "the foremost painter in 
Germany" and I went to him — unfortunately only 
taking my school work. He found everything pretty 
badly distorted and suggested that I work for a year 
in the drawing class at the academy. I failed in the 
examination, something that only made me angry, but 
did not discourage me. In this examination drawings 
were passed which I rightfully considered stupid, un- 
talented and void of any knowledge. After working at 
home for a year I went to Franz Stuck for the second 
time — this time only taking along drafts of drawings 
and paintings which I had not as yet been able to 
complete; I also took a few studies of landscapes. He 
accepted me for his painting class and when I asked 
him about my drawing, I was told that it was expres- 
sive. Already when I did my first work at the Academy, 
Stuck energetically opposed my "extravagance" of 
colors and suggested that I first draw in black and 
white, so that I might only study the form. He spoke 
surprisingly lovingly of art, the play of forms, the blend- 
ing of forms and gained my full sympathy. 

I only wanted to learn drawing from him, because I im- 
mediately noticed that he was little receptive to color, 
and I fully submitted to his advices. In the final analysis 
I remember this year of working with him, although I 
sometimes became very angry, with great thankfulness. 
Stuck always spoke very little and sometimes not very 
clearly. After the corrections I sometimes had to think 
a long time over his remarks — but later I almost always 
found them good. With one single remark he did away 
with my serious handicap of being unable to finish a 
painting. He told me that I worked too nervously, that 
I consume all the interest at the start and spoil the in- 
terest by the dry part which comes too late. He said: 
"I wake up with the idea: today I have a right to do 
this or that." This "I have a right to do" uncovered be- 
fore me Stuck's deep love for art and his high respect 



30 



for it as well as the secret of serious work. And at home 
I finished my first painting. 

For many more years, however, I was like a monkey in 
a net: the organic laws of construction wrapped them- 
selves around me in my desires and it was only through 
great pain, effort and attempts that I was able to 
overthrow this "wall around art." Thus I finally entered 
the realm of art, which is a realm of its own, the same 
as that of nature, science, political life, etc., guided by 
and through its own laws and which, with the other 
realms together, in the end form that great realm which 
we can only dully divine. 

Today is the great day of one of the manifestations of 
this realm. The associations and connections of these 
individual realms were illumined as by a stroke of 
lightning: they come forth from the darkness unexpect- 
edly, frightening but as a blessing. Never were they 
so strongly connected, never so strongly divided. This 
lightning is the child of the darkening of the spiritual 
heavens which hung over us black, suffocating and 
dead. Here the great epoch of the spiritual begins, 
the manifestations of the soul. Father — Son — and 
Holy Spirit. 

As time went on and only gradually I realized that 
"truth" in general, and particularly in art is not an X, 
not an always incompletely recognized but immovable 
eminence, but that this eminence is movable and is con- 
stantly in slow motion. Suddenly it looked to me like a 
slowly moving snail, that hardly appears to leave its 
place and leaves a sticky trail behind it, to which 
near-sighted souls are glued. Here too, I first noticed 
this important factor in art, and later I also saw in this 
instance that the same law governs the other realms of 
life as well. This motion in truth is very complicated: 
The untrue becomes true, the true becomes untrue, some 
parts fall off like the shell from a nut; for this reason 
some mistake the shell for the nut, and bestow on this 
shell the life of the nut, many fight over the shell and 
the nut/olls on. A new truth falls as if from the heavens 
and looks so precise, so stiff and hard, appears so 
endlessly high that some climb on it, as though they 
were climbing a long wooden pole, and they are sure 
that this time they have reached the heavens . . . until 
it breaks and the climbers fall, like frogs into a swamp, 
into the dark unknown. Man is often like a beetle, held 
by the back; in silent longing he moves his little arms, 
reaches out for every blade that is reached out to him 
and constantly believes that this blade is his salvation. 
During the times of my "unbelief" I asked myself, who 
is holding me by the back? Whose hand is holding the 
blade in front of me, and drawing it back again? Or 
am I lying on my back on the dusty, unconcerned earth 
and am reaching for the blades that are growing 
around me of their own accord? How often, however. 



did I feel this hand on my back, and then another that 
pressed itself on my eyes, so that I was in the deep of 
night while the sun was shining. 

Art in many ways resembles religion. This development 
does not consist of new discoveries which do away with 
the old truths and call them aberrations (as appears to 
be the case in science). Its development consists of cer- 
tain illuminations, resembling lightning, of explosions 
bursting like fire crackers in the sky and strewing a 
"bouquet" of numerous luminous stars around them. 
This illumination shows new perspectives in a bright 
light, new truths which basically are nothing but the 
organic development, the organic growing of old wis- 
dom which is not overruled by the new, but continues 
to live and produce as wisdom and truth. The new 
branch does not make the trunk of the tree superfluous: 
it makes the growing of the branch possible. Would 
the New Testament be possible without the Old? 
Would our period of the threshold to the "third" mani- 
festation be possible without the second? It is the 
branching out of the original trunk, in which "every- 
thing commences." And the branching out, the further 
growth and the further complication which often ap- 
pears confusing and despairing, are the necessary 
steps to the mighty crown; the steps, which in the final 
analysis make the tree. 

According to his own words, Christ did not come to 
overthrow the old law. When He spoke: "It was said 
unto you . . . and I say unto you . . ." he brought the old 
material law as that which had become his spiritual 
law. In contrast to man at the time of Moses, man had 
become capable at that time to understand and feel 
the laws "do not kill," "do not commit adultery," not 
only in the direct material form, but also the abstract 
form of the sin of thought, the spiritual sin. 

The plain, precise and hard idea, therefore, is not 
overthrown, but is used as a step to further awakening 
ideas. And these further, softer and less precise, and 
less material thoughts, are like further, softer, new 
branches, which pierce new holes into the air. 

On Christ's scale the truth is not placed as an exteriorly 
rigid fact, but as an inner, flexible one. Here lies the 
root of the further re-evaluation of values, which unin- 
terruptedly, that is also today, slowly continues to 
create and at the same time is the root of spirituality 
which we also gradually achieve in the realm of art. 
During our time in a strongly revolutionary form. In this 
way I finally came to the conclusion that I did not con- 
sider non-objective painting a cancellation of all former 
art, but only a vitally important elementary division of 
the one old trunk into two main branches* from which 
other branches grow, and which are essential for the 
formation of the green crown. 



* By these two main branches I mean two different ways of handling art. The virtuoso manner (which music has known as a special 
approach for a long time and which in literature is equal to the art of acting) rests on the more or less personal conception and on 



the artistic, creative interpretation of "nature." 



(over) 



31 



From the very beginning I felt this fact more or less 
clearly and was always annoyed by claims that I was 
trying to overthrow the old form of painting. In my 
works I never felt this desire to overthrow: in them I 
only felt the innerly logical, exteriorly organical, un- 
avoidable continued growth of art. Gradually I realized 
the former feeling of freedom and thus the unessential 
demands I made of art, gradually disappeared. They 
disappeared in favor of only one demand: the demand 
of i n n e r life in a painting. Here 1 noticed to my sur- 
prise that this demand grew on the basis which Christ 
set up as a moral qualification basis. I found that this 
conception of art is Christian and that at the same time 
it embodies the necessary elements for the receptive- 
ness of the "third" manifestation, the manifestation of 
the spirit.* 

However, I consider it just as logical, that the coloring 
of the object in painting makes great demands on the 
inner spiritual life of the purely artistic forms, that is 
that a development on the part of the observer is abso- 
lutely essential, and can under no circumstances be done 
without. Thus the conditions are created which bring 
forth a new atmosphere. In this atmosphere, much, much 
later, pure art will develop which draws us with irre- 
sistible attraction in the dreams which today evade us. 

As time went on I realized that my slowly further de- 
veloped (partly conquered) tolerance of other works, 
did not harm me in any way, that on the contrary it is 
very favorable to the one-sidedness of my efPorts. For 
this reason 1 would like to partly limit, partly enlarge 
on the statement "The artist should be one-sided" and 
say: "The artist should be one-sided in his work." The 
ability to experience the works of others (which, of 
course, happens and must happen in an individual way). 



makes the soul more sensitive, more capable of vibra- 
tion, enriching, widening and refining it and making it 
more capable of doing its own work. Experiencing and 
feeling the work of others, in a broad sense is the same 
as experiencing nature. May and can an artist be deaf 
and blind? I would say that one approaches his work 
with even happier spirit and even more quiet glow 
when one sees that other possibilities (which are in- 
numerable) in art are properly (more or less) utilized. As 
regards me personally, I love every form which ori- 
ginated from the soul's necessity, was created by the 
soul. Just as I hate every form that was not born that way. 
I believe that philosophy in the future besides studying 
the nature of things, will also study its spirit with great 
care. Then that atmosphere will be created which will 
in general give man the ability to feel the spirit of 
things, to, even though unconsciously, experience this 
spirit just as today most men unconsciously experience 
the exterior of things, which explains the public's en- 
joyment of representational art. This, however, enables 
men in general to experience the spiritual in the ma- 
terial things and later experience the spiritual in ab- 
solute things. And through this new ability, which will 
be in the sign of the "spirit," the enjoyment of absolute 
art is developed. 

My book "On the Spiritual in Art" and also "The Blue 
Rider" had for its main objective the awakening of this 
ability of experiencing the spiritual in the material and 
in absolute things, an ability which will be absolutely 
necessary in the future and will make possible endless 
observations. The desire of arousing this blessed ex- 
perience in those who were not already enjoying it, 
was the main object of the two publications.** 



(An important example — the portrait.) Nature is here also intended to mean an already existing work, created by someone else: the 
virtuose masterpiece which grows out of this, belongs to the same class as a picture painted "from nature." As a rule, artists up to now, 
suppressed the desire of painting such virtuose paintings, something that should be regretted. The so-called copy also belongs in this 
class: the copyist tries to come as close to the foreign piece of work, as a very careful conductor treats a foreign composition. 

The other category is the composition, where the work for the greater part, or exclusively, comes "from within the artist," as has 
,for hundreds of years been the case with music. In this direction, painting has caught up with music, and both have a growing tendency 
of creating "absolute" masterpieces, that is fully "objective wopks," which resemble the works of nature and as separate, individual 
beings, grow "by themselves." These works are closer to that art which lives in the absolute and maybe they alone are designed to 
represent this absolute art. 

*ln this sense the Russian peasant law, previously mentioned, is also Christian and opposed to the heathen, Roman right. With daring 
logic the inner qualification can be explained thus: this act is not a crime when committed by this man, while in general and in the 
case of other people, it would be considered a crime. That is: In this case a crime is not a crime. And further: There is no absolute 
crime. (What a contrast to nulla poena sine lege!) Still further: Not the deed (the actual), but the root (the abstract) creates the bad 
(and good). And finally: Every deed is irrelevant. It stands on the border. The will gives it the push — it falls to the right, or to the left. The 
exterior flexibility and the inner precision is greatly developed in this case among the Russian people and I do not believe that I 
exaggerate, when I recognize a great ability in this direction among the Russians. 

It is therefore not surprising, that nations, who have developed along the lines of the often valuable principles of the formal, outwardly 
very precise Roman law and spirit, (remember the jus strictum of former periods) shake their heads at Russian life or strongly criticize it. 
In superficial observation, this life which appears extraordinary to the strange eye, merely manifests the outer flexibility, which is 
considered unruliness, because the inner precision lies at a depth. That is the reason why the free thinking Russians show much more 
understanding of other nations than is shown to them. In many cases this understanding turns to enthusiasm. 

**My "Spiritual on Art" was written and had been ready in my desk drawer for several years. The possibilities of putting the "Blue 
Rider" in practice, did not work out. Franc Marc opened the practical way for the first book. He also supported the second through 
his fine, understanding and talented spiritual cooperation and help. 



32 



The two books were and are often misunderstood. They 
are taken as "programs" and their authors are de- 
scribed as theorists, artists who have become entangled 
and perished in brain work. 

Nothing, however, was further from me, than to appeal 
to the intellect, to the brain. This task would have been 
premature at this time and will confront the artists as 
the next, most important and unavoidable aim (step) 
in the further development of art. Nothing can and will 
be dangerous anymore to the established spirit which 
has taken strong roots;therefore the much feared mental 
work in art will also not be able to harm it. 

After our before-mentioned trip to Italy and after a 
short return to Moscow, when I was barely five years 
old, my parents and my aunt, Elisabeth Tichejeff,to whom 
I owe as much as to my parents, had to move to Southern 
Russia (Odessa) for reasons of my father's health. Here 
I later attended the Gymnasium but always felt a tem- 
porary guest in this city, which was strange to my en- 
tire family. We never lost the wish" of being able to 
return to Moscow and this city developed a longing in 
my heart similar to that described in Tschechoff's "Three 
Sisters." From my thirteenth year on, my father took 
me with him to Moscow every year; and when I was 
eighteen years old, I finally moved there with the feel- 
ing that I had at last returned to my home. My father 
hails from Eastern Siberia where his forefathers were 
banished from Western Siberia for political reasons. 
He was educated Jn Moscow and learned to love this 
city no less than his home. His deeply human and loving 
soul understood the "soul of Moscow" as well as the 
Moscow exterior. It is always a pleasure to me to hear 
when, for example, with solemn voice, he enumerates 
the numerous old churches, calling them by their won- 
derful old names. Doubtlessly, an artistic soul speaks 



here. My mother was born in Moscow and embodied 
in her the qualities which to me meant Moscow: ex- 
terior striking, through and through earnest and strict 
beauty, noble simplicity, endless energy, a combination 
of great nervousness and striking majestic quiet and 
heroic self-control, combining tradition with true liberal- 
ism. Briefly — inhuman form the "white-stoned," "golden- 
haired" "Mother Moscow." Moscow: the duplicity, the 
complicacy, the greatest flexibility, the collision and 
confusion in its outer appearance which in the end forms 
an own, uniform portrait, the same qualities in inner 
life, something that the strange eye cannot understand 
(that is the reason of the many, many contradicting 
opinions of foreigners regarding Moscow), which is so 
extraordinary and in the end so simple — this entire 
interior and exterior Moscow I consider the root of my 
artistic ambitions. It is my artistic tuning fork. I have the 
feeling that it was always thus and that as time went 
on and due to the exterior formal advances I con- 
stantly painted this "model" only with constantly stronger 
expression, in fully new form and am painting it today. 
The excursions which I have made here and there, off 
this road, on the whole did not harm me, a few dead 
signs, where I was exhausted and which I sometimes 
felt represented the end of my work, on the whole were 
starts and pauses, which enabled the next step. 

In many things I must condemn myself, but to one I 
always remained true — the inner voice, which de- 
cided on my aim in art and as a result of which I hope 
up to the last hour. 
Munich, June 1913. KANDINSKY 



Published 1913 in the Sturm edition: Kandinsky by 
Herwarth Walden. 




[» 



33 




POINTED AND ROUND 



1935 



34 




WASSILY KANDINSKY 



in 1938 



35 



WASSILY KANDINSKY 



It is no exaggeration to affirm, that Kandinsky remained 
most rigorously logical to himself of those painters 
whose watchword at the start of the 20th Century pro- 
claimed a renewal in the Art of painting. He achieved, 
to an absolute degree, the pictorial revolution about 
which there were so many discussions at the end of 
the 19th Century. 

Nevertheless, one is forced to realize that this profound 
prophet and most thorough of theorists of the move- 
ment of post-impressionistic revolt, remained less known, 
and even today not yet listened to, than a number of 
painters, who vulgarized his theories. While with the 
help of commerce (so much avoided by Kandinsky) 
they let their superficial mass production easily become 
accessible to visitors through exhibitions in museums. 
This very vulgarization was accompanied by an in- 
credible concert of imprecations, insults, jeers, cries of 
indignation, and even threats, of which one hears today 
only belated echoes, diminished and without importance. 

In the end, this renewal was only a regeneration of 
form, a new organization of matter, a simple autopsy 
of the third dimension; where form-problems were con- 
sidered unconventionally and the surfaces were granted 
a new value. No need to underestimate the consider- 
able share of aesthetics which these artists contributed 
to the patrimony of painting, it must be admitted that 
their efforts toward an absolute art, favored a priori 
the validity of the invisible reality as soucre of rhythmic 
inspiration and as the subject of creation. If we should 
recall that the word "Abstraction" indicates an opera- 
tion of the mind by which we consider a particular 
element of the so-called reality, we could even say, 
that these painters were realists in the measure in 
which they visionarily were inspired by such a reality, 
in the degree of their personalities. 

It is the domain of "pure effusion" which Kandinsky 
chooses for his field of operation. For him, art "belongs 
to the spiritual life." The problem of the painter is not 
to reflect nature through the prism of his personality, 
but to exteriorize intuitively the prism itself, where the 
feelings are born, the evolutions of the artist, those 
"vibrations of the human soul," in which Kandinsky sees 
the most important source of aesthetic creation. The 
story element, the charm of style in a painting are 
non-pictorial accidents, the consideration of which be- 
longs to an entirely different domain. Creative paint- 
ings touch the spectators' heart, otherwise than by what 
ordinarily is experienced, with objective paintings. It 
is by its "inherent ordered" Rhythm that a Non-objective 
canvas ought to move the one who looks at it, so as to 
rouse the emergence of spiritual affinities between his 
soul and that of the painter. What painting has to say 



cannot be expressed in words, nor ranked in a material 
category. A sort of osmosis on the mental plane ought 
to take place, through which the spectator identifies 
himself spiritually with the creator of such paintings. 
Kandinsky cannot help scoffing at those who are in- 
capable of this attitude. In his book, "On the Spiritual 
in Art" (complete text in the works of the All Russian 
Art Conference, St. Petersburg 1913) he writes: "Our 
materialistic age has produced a type of spectator or 
'connoisseur,' who is not content to put himself opposite 
a picture and let it say its own message. Instead of 
allowing the inner value of the picture to work on him, he 
worries himself by looking for 'closeness to nature,' or 
a 'meaning' or 'temperament,' or 'handling,' or 'Tonality,' 
or 'perspective,' or what-not. His eye does not probe the 
outer expression to arrive at the inner meaning." In 
short, each picture is a challenge to the sensibility of 
the spectator, daring him to join the painter on the 
immaterial plane, which is his, and to taste the same 
spiritual joys. In a letter, Kandinsky specifies the attitude 
he asks of the public, explaining that the spectator must 
learn to look at a picture as the graphic expression of 
a spiritual force, and not as a representation of objects. 
(A. J. Eddy, "Cubists and Post-Impressionism".) 

Thus painting is the direct expression of a state of 
mind, that is to say, a complexity of intuitive creative 
feelings, varied and sometimes even contradictory; 
conditioned by the formation of the artists' intelligence. 
While certain progressive elements induce his life's 
evolutionary advancement, through tragic or happy 
influences, which reacting in profound intensity evolve 
into strength the outline of his growing personality, this 
entirety of spiritual conditions could not find its formal 
equivalent in the earthly realm. To exteriorize it, by 
applying it to natural forms, would be to corrupt it, 
deprive it of innermost qualities and reduce it to such 
small proportions as could be momentarily a surprising 
and, at best, a news item. 

The real problem of a painter is not that of the photo- 
grapher, who strives to reproduce something he finds 
worth to hold down, merely stamping it with^his trade- 
mark of a personal choice in his pictorial selection. The 
creative painter is somewhat similar to the musician, 
who feels no task reproducing the sounds he hears 
around him, but who, on the contrary, exteriorizes only 
the creative rhythm while making audible such har- 
monies, the painter makes such rhythm visible. A hearer 
"will like" or "will not like" a piece of music, according 
to whether or not it will find sympathetic echoes in his 
soul. In any event, primarily the musician realizes his 
expression of emotions in their pure state. He^finds the 
means to communicate his intimate experiences to others 



36 



without having recourse to any static pretense of reality, 
so as to sublime his intensities. While the painter was 
forced to this by public need — before, at last, pho- 
tography gave him the spiritual freedom enjoyed by 
the musicians. In the case of the painter, this freedom 
is expressed with the means of the elements of his art. 
The composing of forms, tone values, colors, space 
dimensions, which are combined according to their 
pictorial counterpoint, relative only to the spiritual 
sensibilities of the artists' creative receivership. 

The creative painter of today cannot be satisfied by 
representation, however artistic, in his desire to express 
his inner life. He does not envy any more the ease of 
freedom in music's incorporeal art. As so evidently the 
painting's superior expression of inventive imagination 
is more profound, more visionary and consequently of 
far stronger, more lasting and ordering influence. With 
rhythmic law of constructive counterpoint, he sets in 
motion harmonies of color and form, in the given space. 
In order to clarify the existing correlations of such in- 
tense concentration of feeling and its pictorial creation, 
Kandinsky tried in his treatise and culture programs to 
undertake a profound study of the theoretic and tech- 
nical elements of his art, to which he was almost too 
close to see its importance. He was interested in the 
fact that a classical French landscape painter of the 
XIX Century, Henri Rovel, had declared "the laws of 
harmony of painting and of music to be the same." 
("Tendances Nouvelies," No. 35, quoted in "On the 
Spiritual in Art.") Kandinsky was led to discover and 
formulate the ideal, which constitutes the essential 
of his art and renders the value to his theories on 
painting. The revelation and use of the pictorial 
counterpoint induces progress and opens the gate to 
the contact with the infinite. 

In music as in painting exists the rule of counterpoint 
with which to create the lawful form element. Perfection 
of such counterpoint in a Non-objective painting, rich of 
thematical variety, provides it with the true mark of 
genius. Without it, such a canvas presents just a collec- 
tion of patterns or accidental sketches which are of 
as much significance to art, as some accidental sounds 
produced on a piano could be to a symphony. Also 
into this category belong symmetrical decorations which 
are as far from a creative invention as scales are able 
to produce a sonata. It is by organization of the 
subtle interaction, thc^t harmonious aesthetic coherence 
gives evidence and power to any essential, spirited 
message. It allows a painter to give the true measure 
of his innermost evolution. In objective painting, this 
integration, an aesthetic pleasure in itself, is not sought 
for. Its results of research amplify the banality of 
eternally boring repetition, and repetition of objects 
depicted endlessly. The correlation which is estab- 
lished in the mind of the spectator between the subject 
of the picture and his own experience or memory of 
that subject is not of any lasting interest. Therefore, 



the representational painting over and over again tells 
the same old story of landscapes, portraits, endlessly 
banal still-lifes, which even could there be a change, 
cannot but for a short moment hold our attention to 
prevent the usual yawning, with which our reaction, 
to pictorially so over-crowded existence has now- 
adays become identified. The divine result of our 
escape into the loftier realms of imagination, to eternal 
relief, releases us to a spiritual freedom of endless 
interest; here the varieties of frequencies are con- 
stantly new, effective on those not blinded by earthly 
boredom, of curiosity without surprises left. The non- 
objective painting's unending possibilities of basic form 
problems are beyond the static still-life of portraits. 
Artistic forms have done away with the untruth of 
pretense in perspective, deceit so easily taught, so 
contrary to pictorial elements. 

The spiritual element of counterpoint in creative paint- 
ing constitutes the acme of aesthetic value. Kandinsky 
defines thus its divers components: "The concord or 
discord in various elements of a picture, the handling 
of groups, the combination of veiled or openly ex- 
pressed appeals, the use of rhythmical and unrhyth- 
mical, of geometrical or non-geometrical forms, of con- 
tinuity or separation — all these things constitute ma- 
terial for counterpoint in painting." ("The Art of 
Spiritual Harmony.") 

In Kandinsky's work this counterpoint is undeniably the 
dominant quality which gives to his pictures their force 
of cohesion. It allows forms, extremely rich in their 
almost unending variety, colors of strikingly daring or 
dull tonality, to coexist in the space encompassed by a 
frame. According to an inner rhythm, in which each of 
these elements finds its relation to its neighbors, so as 
a creation it is as unique as every human being. It is 
the spiritual presence of such counterpoint, which gives 
to Kandinsky's canvases this spiritual quality of validity, 
whether past, present or future as this eternal value, 
based on the immortality of all true aesthetic manifes- 
tations of the soul. 

Non-objective painting possesses the peculiarity of 
evading the rules of past epochs. It obeys to the 
superior law of the universe, the existence of which for 
the artist has the power of sensorial postulate. Through 
the omniscience of the artists' intuition and the subtlety 
of his sensibility, he directs his faculties of exterioriza- 
tion towards the spiritual domain which in reality is 
theirs, of the degree in which they have assimilated the 
ineffable mechanism, and which Kandinsky expressed, 
by saying: "That which has no material existence can- 
not be subjected to a material existence nor can it be 
subjected to any material classification." Therefore, 
that which belongs to the part of its spiritual message 
in the picture, can only be received and realized by 
the onlooker's feeling in meeting the artist's message 
half way — by the simple message "to be enjoyed." 
To be liked by some or disliked by others does not 



37 



change the superiority of Bach's music. Nor does the 
personal likes or dislikes of critics or the public af- 
fects the value of any art. 

It is interesting to recall the chance incident, which set 
Kandinsky on the track of his theory of Non-objective 
painting. That evening in 1905, as he was entering 
his studio, his gaze drawn to a picture in a dark 
corner of the room. It conveyed great beauty, an al- 
most mystical harmony of colors and surface. Kandinsky, 
coming close to it, discovered that the picture was 
standing sideways, consequently, what appealed to 
him so much was no result of subjective influence, 
evidently the purely pictorial effect of elements, there- 
fore, could result in such really magical enjoyment. 
This episode had a decisive influence in the evolution 
of Kandinsky's painting. 

What he had visualized before hazily now suddenly 
became clear to his mind. At last he knew and felt 
how he must paint; free of objective hindrance, so 
harmful to the pictorial element. He now understood 
that the object had no place in his pictures. 

To eliminate it entirely was the stepping stone, to what 
was to become soon the theoretic and practical renewal 
of his art, if not of art itself. 

Kandinsky wrote in 1935 to Hilla Rebay "It has always 
been my convinction that this kind of painting at least 
has no less possibilities than the objective — rather 
more! I think absolutely: more! 

"The great differences of the pictures must appear 
sufficient even to the most 'stubborn skeptic' to shake 
the mental prejudice against absolute form. Of course, 
if the skeptic wishes to see. One can, if one wishes, be 
blind even with open eyes. There are no remedies 
against this. That in the evil conditions of our days, 
culture and art suffer most, is more than correct. Luckily 
we are not the only ones who see this clearly. Here 
and there one hears voices today who speak energet- 
ically of the lost feeling of honor, the disappearance 
of the thirst for spirit, the devastating lack of interest 
in matters of culture. Yet, today such voices are "voices 
in a desert." As an unconvertible optimist 1 feel and 
believe, that in the end their hopes will win. 

When? is another question. Yet we are branded as 
whimsey individuals and impractical people. But with 
time soft drops of water work holes into the hard stone. 
If we bear in mind that the present crisis is not only a 
bank, economic and business crisis, but mainly a psy- 
chosis, the soft drop turns into a hard drop and the 
hard stone into a soft stone. Even this crisis is only a 
small part of the much deeper reaching spiritual crisis." 

"The creative power of us artists, which seemingly 
today 'passes by life itself,' already today, like the 
drop of water, gradually rebuilds the spiritual world. 
I am not ashamed to make such a statement. So, long 
live the future, long live 1935." 



Kandinsky's interest in art and the things of the mind 
had been awakened early in him by his father, who 
was gifted with a real talent for drawing, and by 
Elizabeth Tichejeff, his mother's older sister, to whom 
he owes so much for his interest in music, folklore, literature 
and "the profound essence of the Russian people." 

For this reason Rural law especially interested him: To 
study it he made a trip to the Northeast, to inform him- 
self on pagan religion of the Syrienes. His travel im- 
pressions in this picturesque Russian countryside, his 
visits to peasant houses, with their brilliantly colored 
interiors as his reactions to the vivid colors of the 
Kremlin fill his eyes with the play of variations in 
luminous or mysterious colors, which still may be found 
in his early canvases. 

At the termination of his law studies, Kandinsky got 
the title of Attache of Jurisprudence at the Court of 
Justice in Moscow. The University of Dorpat (Tartu in 
Esthonia) offered him a professorship. The year is 
1896; Kandinsky was thirty years old; he was at the 
turning point of his life. So he took an irrevocable de- 
cision: He abandoned a safe career and left for Munich 
to study painting, "putting a final period to long studies 
of preceding years." 

Already in those days, the atmosphere of Munich was 
very troubled. The struggle against modernism in 
artistic expression was in full swing. Kandinsky first 
studied at the school of Anton Azbe, who "of Slav 
origin, was a gifted painter and a man of rare qualities 
of the soul." He remained there two years, then he 
finally was admitted to the Royal Academy in Munich 
to study under Franz V. Stuck, who had the reputation 
of being "the first draftsman of Germany." But the 
instruction he received did not satisfy him. In 1902, he 
opened his own art school, which he closed soon to 
undertake a series of travels. These brought him in 
contact with the many sides of movements by modern 
painters in European countries. He thus familiarized 
himself with Seurat, van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse, 
Delaunay, Gleizes, Picasso and other painters, between 
1903 and 1908. In turn he visited Tunisia, Italy, Paris, 
Berlin. His paintings did not show any marked influence 
by the innovations of contemporary artists nor did they 
reflect the atmosphere of countries through which he 
passed. Kandinsky was so completely Russian that even 
his later landscapes attested to the durable impression 
caused by the variety of colors of his native land, 
while other canvases showed by their almost primitive 
style how close he was to the intensity of Russian folk's 
art expression. 

So he returned to Munich, where soon after occurred 
the magical incident of the picture at dusk and through 
it the realization of the superfluousness of the object 
in any painting. It took two years in getting fully 
crystallized. The canvases of this period, although still 
abstractions of objects, use these primarily as structural 
elements, while form and color dominated their ob- 



38 



jective inspiration. In 1910, he finished "Ueber das 
Geistige in der Kunst," translated into English "On the 
Spiritual in Art," a theoretical treatise on art. In it he 
establishes the philosophical basis of Non-objective 
painting; and it was published in 1912 in Munich, only 
two years later, and 1914 in London, though incomplete. 

The period from 1910 to 1914 is the one of the "Der 
Blaue Reiter," ("Blue Rider") the name of a group de- 
voted to the renewal of painting, which was formed by 
Kandinsky, and in the orbit of which gravitated painters 
like Franz Marc, August Macke, Paul Kiee and Jawien- 
sky. At that time, about 1911, he exhibited his first 
entirely Non-objective canvas and wildest controversy, 
lies, insults, were started. While his renown was begin- 
ning to spread among those, who were interested in 
creativeness or opposed to it, his canvases started 
feverish comments everywhere at their exhibitions. 

The Armory show of 1913, a nucleus from the famous 
Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne of 1912, brought to 
New York by Marie Sterner, showed for the first time 
also Kandinsky 's paintings, for one of which Alfred 
Stieglitz paid $800, a sacrifice to him at that time, 
when he became the first in the U. S. A. to own one of 
these great paintings. These created a sensation, also 
afterwards in Chicago, as later in London's Albert Hall. 
There two improvisations by Kandinsky and a landscape, 
were described as the best paintings there; the critic 
added "the landscape is easier to interpret, but that 
is all, and more." 

Subsequently Kandinsky's "Improvisations" became 
more definite, more logically ordered and more closely 
knit in feeling and structure, as well as more surprisingly 
beautiful in their opposing colors, more precise in their 
equilibrium. Yet to call them "pure visual music," was a 
term which Kandinsky disliked. 

Yet the intense spontaneity of organized force in such 
vast contrast to the lyrical tenderness of these paintings, 
creates a vivid interplay. An artistic expression which 
in later years is prevented, due to his advance in the 
science of counterpoint, yet his theoretical research de- 
veloped other problems in the Realm of space precision 
and the composition so essential to the infinite appeal 
of the paintings' serene quietitude. The period from 
1922-1928 people called his cold period and again 
he was abused for it. Soon enough these paintings 
were in possession of private collectors who began to 
realize his unerring strife for pictorial perfection. 

Between 1914 and 1921, Kandinsky had lived in Russia. 
Circumstances prevented him from doing much work, 
and it is only by their darker colors that we distinguish 
his canvases of the period 1914 to 1919, while all 
these paintings contain the same lyrical poetry. In 1919 
he finds, simultaneously used in her paper paintings 
from Alsace by Hilla Rebay, and what later Bauer used 
in his white fugue, the intense precision of intricate space 
dimension, induced by the use of a cruel white or (as 



Kandinsky did) of very light backgrounds. Such cruel 
white does not permit the ease of modulating tone 
values between forms, which hide vague tonal indecisions 
of the realistic era paintings. 

In 1918, Kandinsky was named member of the Art 
Section of the People's Commissariat of Public Educa- 
tion and professor of Aesthetic Science at the Academy 
of Fine Art in Moscow. In 1919, he became Director of 
the Museum of Pictorial Culture and as such founded 
the Institute of Artistic Culture for which he wrote the 
culture plan. In 1920, he was named professor at the 
University of Moscow. In 1921 he created the Academy 
of Artistic Science, of which he became Vice-President. 
Also at this time did he organize for the government a 
group of 43 museums destined to diffuse popular 
culture. 

Late in 1921, Kandinsky returned to Berlin, where at 
the Wallerstein Gallery he exhibited canvases with 
these light backgrounds and delicate colors often 
sharply contrasted by decided black, as a constructive 
counterpoint. Since 1923, he taught at the well-known 
Bauhaus, first established in Weimar, later in Dessau. 
When the authorities ordered its closing in 1933, 
Kandinsky left that city via Berlin to finally settle down 
in Paris, where he remained up to his recent death, 
December 13th, 1944. 

The pictures of the 1922-1928 period show the variety 
of Kandinsky's talent. His painting frees itself more 
and more by seeking and finding his inspiration entirely 
in the sensibilities of the balance of space and that 
of the absolute vision, which he recently called a con- 
crete one after having taken complete possession of 
his medium to express the intricacies "of pictorial tech- 
niques." More and more Kandinsky's paintings give 
evidence of his technical mastership. His continual 
research to increase the infinite possibilities of Non- 
objective painting never failed to proclaim the rhythmic 
form ideal, which replaced the static one of the past. 
That profound spontaneity with which he had created 
from 1910-1919 extraordinarily rare masterpieces; of 
such lyrical magic, as the famous "White Edge," the 
gorgeous "Black Lines," "Red Spot," "Light Picture," 
"White Center," as well as his compositions and 
"Improvisations," with which his reputation attained 
such immediate height. In his last years, height may 
have easily returned to him when due to the sufiFerings 
from the war turmoil, such deep emotions may have 
been revived once his mastership of technique and 
space-balance had freed him again, so as to enable 
him to spontaneous intuitive reaction as a possibility. 
Also as a possibility to overcome the deprivation and 
terror of war, to which his very last years had been 
exposed. His last paintings, from 1938-1944, unknown 
to us here due to war-conditions, quite possibly 
express again a great lyrical intensity. They were ex- 
hibited in Paris in November and December, 1944, 
during Kandinsky's last grave illness. This "enormously 



39 



successful" exhibition had to be extended after his 
death, which occurred on December 13, 1944. 

The profound truth of his theories impress to a grow- 
ing degree, those, who are able to feel aesthetic 
enjoyment through his paintings. The prophetic nature 
of these paintings evokes and proclaims a spiritual 
ideal which is to dominate a new era. When intuitive 
evolution proclaims the right of mankind, it enters vision- 
arily into the absolute domain of universal order, 
directing culture to advance into the absolute, equalled 
by civilization's increasing attainment to ease life on 
the material side. 

This constitutes the beginning of a new epoch of 
Humanity, to which such a master as Kandinsky was 
the unerring prophet. Aesthetic culture's practical 
side is the one above all vicissitudes of social cross- 
currents, which helps to break up materialistic urge, 
until its enlightened spiritual reality is found to be the 
unerringly safe and only protection of mankind. 

Naturally, Kandinsky was profoundly conscious of the 
revolutionary and messianic character of his art. To him, 
the true artist is endowed with "a secret power of vision" 
which makes him the standard bearer for all those, who 
believe in the spiritual evolution of humanity. "Painting 
is an art," he declares, "and is not a vague production, 
transitory and isolated, but a power which must be 
directed for the improvement and refinement of the 
human soul." (On the Spiritual of Art.) He is violently 
opposed to esoterism in art, which intends to monop- 
olize the universal value of beauty, for the benefit of 
a few intellectualists or a clique of false aesthetics. He 
rebukes them for having lost sight of the educational 
role of art and, having no message to impart, to extol 
the importance of the exterior aspect of the work. "The 
artist must have something to say, for mastery over 
form is not his goal, but rather the adapting of form to 
its inner meaning." (On the Spiritual of Art.) And to 
those who try to divorce the artist from the time in 
which he lives, Kandinsky says that their theory of "art 
for art" is precisely, "this neglect of inner meaning" by 
which "art becomes purposeless" because of "vain 
squandering of artistic talent." 



"Every work of art is the child of its age," is the affir- 
mation by which Kandinsky starts one of his books. The 
needs and aspirations of each epoch are reflected, 
with diverse exact degrees, in contemporary aesthetic 
manifestations. But these are not necessarily intelligible 
to a great number of people, whose education, origin 
or background have conditioned them to hang on to 
an artistic conception out of date long ago and far 
removed from present human evolution. The artist is 
not really in advance of his age, as is currently said; 
it is only the public who has not caught up with him. 
For the creative artist, who by a super-normal percep- 
tion is permitted to grasp and express clearly the yet 
obscure, reacts particularly sensitive to his intuitive con- 
tact with universal force which artistically expresses the 
Creator of the All. To precisely diffuse the revelation 
with which prophetically Kandinsky was favored, re- 
sults in the realization that all that was the truth for 
him, is bound to become the truth for All. As Kandinsky 
said, "art which is capable of educating further, springs 
equally from contemporary feeling. It is not only the 
echo and mirror of it, but also has a deep and powerful 
prophetic strength." (On the Spiritual of Art.) The 
artistic appreciation of cosmic order beyond objective 
representation gives to Non-objective painting the 
capacity of extending such spiritual influence, which 
increases with the passage of time — in sharp contrast 
to any representation of everlastingly repetitious, 
boring objective paintings which reached their last 
limits; and are now being left behind. 

Spiritual Resurrection through art responds in general 
to the highest human ideals. Open to the influence of 
harmony and balance it already opposes congealed 
dead representation in their pretense of reality, hence- 
forth without secrets. To give way to the dynamic 
exteriorization of the absolute, in its fvital beautiful 
essence. The so satisfied needs of empirical know- 
ledge reveal the pure joys of intuitive perception. 
For all that and for still more, future generations will 
become more grateful than we can be to this great 
master. We already feel indebted to him who was able 
to rise above human nature, to probe with passion, 
confidence and courage the mysterious waves of the 
soul: Wassily Kandinsky. 




40 






CO 




z 

Ul 

CO 

Q 
Z 
< 

9 
O 




TING AS A PURE ART 



BY WASSILY KANDINSKY 1914 



CONTENT AND FORM: 

The work of art consists of two elements: the inner 
and the outer. The inner element, taken individu- 
ally, is the emotion of the artist's soul. The emotion has 
the ability of creating a basically corresponding 
emotion in the observer's soul. 

As long as the soul is connected with the body, it can 
as a rule receive vibrations only through the medium 
of feeling. The feeling, therefore, is a bridge from the 
non-material to the material (Artist) and from the ma- 
terial to the non-material (Observer). Emotion — 
Feeling — Work of Art — Feeling — Emotion. 

The inner element of a work of 
art is its content. Thus spiritual vibration 
must exist. If this is not the case, a work of art cannot 
be created. That is, only a pretense can be created. 

The inner element, created by the vibration of the 
soul, is the content of the work of art. Without an inner 
content no work of art can exist. 

So that the content which first lives in an "abstract" 
form maylbe shaped into a work of art, the second 
element — the exterior — must serve to make it con- 
crete. For this reason the content looks for a means of 
expression, a "material" form. 

Thus the work of art is an inseparable amalgamation 
of the inner and outer element, the content and form. 

The decisive element is that of the content. The 
form is the material expression 
of the abstract content. 

The choice of the form is therefore decided by the 
inner spiritual necessity which is the 
only real unchanging law of art. 

A work of art, which has been created in the afore- 
mentioned manner is "beautiful." Thus a beauti- 
ful work of art is a legitimate 
combination of the two elements 
of the inner and the outer. 

This combination makes the work of art homogenous. 
The work of art becomes an object. As a painting it 
is a spiritual organism which, like all material organ- 
isms, consists of many individual parts. These individual 
parts, taken separately, are lifeless, like a cut-off 
finger. The life of the finger and its appropriate effect 
is dependent on its lawful connection with the other 
parts of the body. The legitimate com- 
bination is the construction. 

Like the work of art, the work of nature is subject to 
the same law: the law of construction. The individual 
parts only become alive through the whole. 



The endless number of individual parts in painting are 
divided into two groups: 

The drawn form and 
The painted form. 

The systematic and proper com- 
bination of the individual parts 
of both groups results in the 
painting. 

NATURE. 

When we apply these two definitions (component parts 
of the work of art and particularly the painting) to 
individual works, we encounter the apparently coin- 
cidental existences of strange component parts in the 
painting. That is so-called n a t u r e . In our two 
definitions nature was not assigned a place. How did 
it get into the painting? 

The origin of painting is the same as that of any other 
art or any human act. It was purely practical. 

If a savage hunter follows the game for days, he is 
prompted by hunger. 

If a royal hunter today goes on a chase, he is prompted 
by pleasure. While hunger is a material value, is the 
pleasure here an aesthetic value? 

If a savage makes artificial noises for a dance, he is 
prompted by sexual instinct. 

When modern man goes to a concert, he does not 
look for a practical auxiliary means in music, but for 
pleasure. 

Here too, the original physico-practical instinct has 
become aesthetic. That means, here the original physi- 
cal need has become a spiritual need. 

In this refinement (or spiritualization) of the 
simplest practical (or physical) means two results can 
be observed throughout: the segregation 
of the spiritual element from the physical and its 
further independent development, thus 
creating various forms of art. 

Here, very gradually and constantly more and more 
precise, the above-mentioned laws (of content 
and form) interpose and finally create a 
pure art from any transitory art. 
That is a quite logical, natural growth, like the growth 
of a tree. 

PAINTING 

The same procedure is noticed in p a i n t i n g . 
First period. Origin: practical desire to retain 
the perishable physical. 



42 



Second period, Development: the gradual 
segregation from this practical purpose and the 
gradual predominance of the spir- 
t u a I element. 

Third period, Aim: The reaching to the higher step 
of p u r e a r t ; in it the remnants of practical 
desire are completely segregated. It speaks in an 
artistic language from spirit to spirit and is a realm 
of artistic spiritual beings (subjects). 

In today's position of painting we can 
notice all three indications in various constellations 
and degrees. The indication of development (the 
second period) is the decisive one, i.e.: 

First period: Realistic Painting (Realism 
is understood here as it traditionally developed up 
into the nineteenth century): Predominance of the in- 
dication of origin — the practical desire, the perish- 
able physical to be retained (portraits, landscapes, 
painting of history in a direct sense). 

Second Period: Naturalist Painting (in 
the form of Impressionism, Neo Impressionism and 
Futurism), the segregation from the practical purpose 
and the gradual predominance of the spiritual element 
(from Impressionism through Neo Impressionism to 
Futurism constantly greater segregation and constantly 
greater predominance). 

In this period the inner desire to give the spiritual 
exclusive importance is so intense, that the impressionist 
"Credo" already says "The important thing in art is 
not the 'what' (by which is not meant the artistic content 
but nature) but the 'how'." 

Apparently so little importance is attached to the last 
remnants of the first period (Origin) that nature as 
such is no longer fully considered. Apparently nature 
was only considered the starting point, an excuse for 
giving expression to the spiritual content. In any event, 
these component parts of the "Credo" were already 
recognized and proclaimed by the Impressionists. 

In reality, however, this "Credo" is only a "pium 
desiderium" of the painting of the second period. 

If the choice of the object (nature) were immaterial 
to this form of painting, it would not have to look for 
any "motives". Here the object demands the treatment, 
the choice of form does not remain free 
but is dependent on the object. 

If we exclude the objective (object) from a painting 
of this period and thus leave only the purely artistic 
in the painting, we immediately notice that this 
objective (object) forms a kind of support without 
which the purely artistic structure (construction) breaks 
down due to lack of forms. Or it is found that after this 
exclusion only completely indefinite, coincidental artistic 
forms (in an embryo state), unable to exist by them- 



selves, remain on the canvas. Thus in such painting 
nature (the "what" in this sense of painting) is not 
coincidental, but important. 

This exclusion of the practical element, the objective 
(nature) is only possible if this component part is sub- 
stituted by another important component. And that is 
the purely artistic form which can give the painting 
the power of independent life and is capable of 
lifting the painting to the height of a spiritual object. 
It is evident that this important component part is the 
above described and defined construction. 

This substitute we find in the third period which is 
beginning today: Compositional painting. 

According to the beforementioned schedule of three 
periods, we have therefore arrived at the third period, 
which was designated as the aim. 

In compositional painting which is 
today developing in front of our eyes, we immediately 
see: The distinguishing marks of the attainment of the 
higher step in pure art, in which 
the remnants of practical desire can be completely 
segregated and speak a purely artistic language 
from spirit to spirit, and which is a realm of graphical- 
spiritual essence. 

It will immediately be clear and unquestionable to 
anyone, that a painting of this third period which has 
no support in a practical purpose (of the first period) 
or the spiritual content objectively supported (of the 
second period), can only exist as a constructive being. 

The today strong (and constantly stronger) appearing, 
conscious or subconscious, effort of replacing the object 
by construction, is the first step to the commencement 
of pure art for the final attainment, for which the past 
periods of art were unavoidable and legitimate. 

Thus I have tried briefly to schematically discuss the 
entire development and particularly the situation of 
today. 

That is why so many gaps had to be left open. That 
is why I have mentioned nothing of detours and devia- 
tions which are unavoidable in any development, such 
as the side branches on a tree, though it is lifted to 
the sky. 

The further development which painting is facing, will 
also suffer many contradictions, deviations — as was 
experienced in music, which we today already know, 
as pure art. 

The past has taught us"^that the development of 
humanity consists of the spiritualization of many values. 
Among these values art occupies the first place and 
painting is traveling the road which leads it from the 
practical adequate to the spiritual adequate. From 
the objective to the creative composition. 



43 




iS" 



44 



INDEX 

a 

page 

Analysis on his "Composition No. 4" by Wassily Kandinsky, written in March 1911. 8 

Analysis on his "Composition No. 6" by Wassily Kandinsky, written in early May 1913. 10 

Analysis on "The White Edge" by Wassily Kandinsky, written in late May 1913. 15 

The Period of 1910-1920, and the importance of "On The White Edge." 16 

On the difference of Abstract and Non-Objective Painting and on "Composition No. 8." 18 

Notes on Kandinsky 20 

Retrospects by Wassily Kandinsky, written in 1910, 

published by Herwarth Walden in a Sturm Edition 1913, of a monograph called "Kandinsky." 23 

Wassily Kandinsky, written Spring and Fall 1944, completed after Kandinsky's death December 13th, 1944. 36 

Painting as a pure Art by Wassily Kandinsky from: Expressionisms 1918, Sturm Edition. 42 



REPRODUCTIONS IN BLACK AND WHITE 

COMPOSITION No. 4 (1911) oil on canvas 160cm x 250cm Location unknown 9 

COMPOSITION No. 6 (1913) oil on canvas 195cm x 300cm Property of the Soviet Government 10 



REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOR 

Watercolor, 1911, sketch to the "Composition No. A," 

taken from the "Blue Rider," edited 1912 by Kandinsky. 8 

The following paintings are owned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 
and permanently on view at the Museum of Non-objective Paintings, New York. 

THE WHITE EDGE (1913) oil on canvas 55 x 75 17 

COMPOSITION No. 8 (1923) oil on canvas 54 x 78 19 

EXTENDED (No. 533, 1926) oil on wood 37 x 17 Cover 

POINTED AND ROUND (1935) oil on cardboard 27 x 19 34 

"RIGID AND BENT (1936) oil and sand on canvas 45 x 64 ^ 41 

45 



i>C^ 




>